At first glance, the plot of land at 396 Northampton St. in the South End appears to be an unremarkable sliver of green space along the 4.1-mile long Southwest Corridor Park.
But on Thursday afternoon, it was adorned with an official plaque marking it as a historic site — the first home of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King, after they married and resettled here in 1953.
City and state officials gathered with community advocates on the Southwest Corridor Park for the plaque unveiling and to celebrate the latest step to officially recognize the Kings’ time spent in Boston with memorials, markers, and commemorations.
”What the Kings did here . . . was revolutionary,” said Clennon King, a documentary filmmaker [of no relation] who’s worked on preserving the Kings’ Boston history for years. “From here, two people who society viewed as less than fell in love, then hatched a plan and committed themselves to a shared vision of a better world.”
The Kings’ history in Boston, and at Northampton Street, is well-documented. After marrying in Alabama in June 1953, the couple continued their studies in Boston and settled at what was once the Lincoln Apartments at 396 Northampton St. In a 1954 letter to King, R. D. Nesbitt, a clerk for Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., listed 396 Northampton St. as King’s mailing address.
The Lincoln Apartments were demolished by the federal government during urban renewal and an unsuccessful attempt to build an Interstate 95 extension through the South End, said former state representative Byron Rushing, who has researched the history of the Kings and the Black community in Boston.
”There are very few pieces of that neighborhood that have survived,” Rushing said, adding that “this dedication is part of what the city and Commonwealth can continue to do to tell this important history.”
Rebecca Tepper, secretary of the state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, said the marker represents the administration’s mission to ensure that Black residents “have equitable access to beautiful, open, outdoor space.”
“Commemorating history in this way is essential to creating a just future,” Tepper said.
The newlywed home marker is also part of a broader effort to make the civil rights leaders’ presence in Boston more visible and prominent. The bronze 19-ton Embrace sculpture unveiled on Boston Common in January cemented the Kings’ connection to Boston’s overall history.
The land at 396 Northampton St. is one of 21 addresses that Clennon King, the documentary filmmaker, has identified as significant to the couple’s Boston years. In March, the Boston City Council unanimously adopted a resolution supporting King’s effort to establish a heritage trail that would take walkers to the various places that shaped the couple’s story in Boston, including their newlywed home. (Clennon King isn’t related to the Kings, but his father, C.B. King, was a lawyer who represented King during the Albany Movement, a desegregation and voting rights alliance formed in Albany, Ga.)
Mayor Michelle Wu has endorsed the idea of the walking trail, but the effort is still in its preliminary stages.
On Thursday, the melody of Common and John Legend’s “Glory” played from a speaker as eight stakeholders pulled back a black sheet, revealing the official marker. A photo of the Kings and an informative graving describing the couple’s early years in Boston sits atop a granite stone.
State Representative John Moran, who represents the area, praised the marking.
“It’s wonderful that generations of Bostonians will be able to pause for a moment as they pass through this location,” he said, “to reflect on the great gift that Dr. King and Coretta Scott King left us all.”