Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is considered one of the most prominent Civil Rights leaders in the entire world. Leading multiple famous demonstrations including the Montgomery Bus Boycotts and the March on Washington, Dr. King focused on desegregation, the right to vote, labor rights, poverty and more. He famously utilized the principle of nonviolent protest first championed by Mahatma Gandhi, earning him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. Dr. King’s life came to a tragic end when he was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.
The neighborhood where Dr. King grew up was none other than the Sweet Auburn district in Atlanta. Today, the National Park Service owns multiple significant landmarks, monuments and exhibits featuring the life and legacy of Dr. King, spanning 35 acres. Take time to visit the National Historic Park to get a deeper understanding of this iconic Civil Rights leader beyond his “I Have a Dream” speech.
The Visitor Center’s featured exhibit is called “Courage to Lead” and provides parallel perspectives about the paths taken by the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. King’s personal journey. Here, learn more about other prominent Atlanta civil rights leaders in addition to Dr. King, such as Hosea Williams, Ralph David Abernathy, Fannie Lou Hamer, John Lewis and Joseph Lowery. Additionally, see the casket that transported Dr. King through his Atlanta funeral procession in 1968 and listen to some of Dr. King’s many famous speeches, including “I’ve Been On the Mountaintop.”
In the Visitor Center, you can also sign up to take a tour of Dr. King’s birth home, which is only open by appointment.
Location: East Atlanta - 450 Auburn Ave NE; Website: nps.gov/malu/planyourvisit; Contact: 404-331-5190
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Birth Home Tour
Dr. King was born at 501 Auburn Avenue on Jan. 15, 1929, in this two-story frame Queen Anne house that was built in 1895. He lived in the cozy yellow and brown home for twelve years, until 1941, which means that touring the home is a great way to better understand the formative years of Dr. King. Today, it is only possible to tour the birth home by appointment. 30-minute tours are led by National Park Service rangers and first-come, first-serve sign-ups are available in the Visitor Center.
Location: East Atlanta - 501 Auburn Ave NE; Website: nps.gov/malu/planyourvisit; Contact: 404-331-6922
Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church
Built in 1922, historic Ebenezer Baptist Church was led by Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr. (also known as “Daddy King”) in 1931 before his iconic son joined his father as Co-Pastor in 1960. Today, explore the historic church filled with both happy and sad memories, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. performed his live sermons, as well as where his mother, Alberta Williams King, was shot while playing the organ during Sunday service. The church also served as the location of funeral services for Dr. King, John Lewis and Rayshard Brooks. The current pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church is U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock.
Location: East Atlanta - 101 Jackson St NE; Website: ebenezeratl.org; Contact: 404-688-7300
The King Center
Also known as the Center for Nonviolent Social Change, The King Center is led by CEO Bernice King, who is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s daughter. Freedom Hall features the Yolanda D. King Theatre for the Performing Arts, as well as a Resource Center and exhibition spaces honoring Dr. King, his wife Coretta Scott King, as well as Rosa Parks and Mahatma Gandhi. Outside Freedom Hall, you’ll find a reflection pool with a Georgia marble mausoleum featuring the bodies of Dr. King and Mrs. King, laid to rest together. Nearby the mausoleum is an Eternal Flame that symbolizes Dr. King’s dream to build a Beloved Community focused on justice, peace, equality and nonviolence.
Location: East Atlanta - 449 Auburn Ave NE; Website: thekingcenter.org; Contact: 404-526-8900
Historic Fire Station No. 6
Located near Dr. King’s birth home and in front of the King Center lies Historic Fire Station No. 6. This particular station opened in 1894 and closed in 1991 because modern fire trucks were too big for its doors. While all Atlanta fire stations became integrated after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, this one just happens to be a few doors down from Dr. King’s childhood home. Today, it is a fire station museum with a 1927 American LaFrance Metropolitan Pumper Hose Car, a watch desk, a telegraph machine, two original fire poles and a fire bell.
Location: East Atlanta - 39 Boulevard NE; Website: nps.gov Contact: 404-331-5190
International Peace Rose Garden
Stop and smell the fragrant roses at the International Peace Rose Garden, located in front of the Visitor’s Center. There are multiple rows of colorful roses, each with a specific meaning: pink representing Coretta Scott King’s “oneness” with Dr. King, red honoring African Americans and their contributions to the United States and the world, and additional roses representing the special bond between Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, as well as the diverse cultures, nations and religions of the world. You can also find inspirational messages of peace written by youth in the greater Atlanta area, as well as the broader United States and even around the world.
Roots fans may recognize this statue representing Kunta Kinte, a character from the famous 1976 Alex Haley novel, holding a newborn to the sky. Behold was designed by sculptor Patrick Morelli and dedicated in 1990 by Coretta Scott King. It currently stands in front of Ebenezer Baptist Church and is dedicated to “the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for his moral courage and nobility of spirit.”