More progress was made toward racial equality during the 12 years that Martin Luther King, Jr., led the Civil Rights Movement than in the previous three centuries. His success, according to him, was attributable to the courageous men, women, and children he led, and the nonviolent teachings of Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi, and others.
The MLK, Jr., National Historic Site was established in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter. It preserves the places where MLK, Jr., was born, lived, worked, worshipped, and is buried.
Our first stop was the Visitor Center where we picked up a map of the National Historic Site and spent some time in the exhibits: Children of Courage Discovery Center, Courage to Lead, and D.R.E.A.M. Gallery.
Feeling like I already knew pretty much about this great leader of the Civil Rights movement, it was interesting to get an overview of his life and accomplishments:
- Education: Born in 1929, King lived in this neighborhood and attended segregated public schools in Atlanta. He graduated from Morehouse College (Atlanta) with a BA in 1948; completed is BD at Crozier Theological Seminary (Chester, PA) in 1951; studied in India as a guest of Prime Minister Nehru of nonviolent teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, and earned PhD from Boston University in theology in 1953.
- Married Coretta Scott (1953); they had four children together.
- Civil Rights Movement: Became involved in the movement when Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, AL, for bus segregation ban (1955); founding president of Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SLCC) in 1957; imprisoned on numerous occasions for leading Civil and Voter Rights marches;
- Named Times Man of the Year and present at the signing of the Civil Rights Act by LBJ (1964); led the famous Selma to Montgomery voter rights march with 25,000 participants (1965);
- Joined the Viet Nam War anti-war movement (1967); delivered his famous "I've Been to the Mountain Top" speech and was shot on April 4 (1968).
King and Jimmy Carter, two men from humble beginnings in GA, had strong mutual respect and worked together during the Civil RIghts Movement. The Presidential Medal of Freedom was awarded posthumously to MLK, Jr., in 1977.
The National Historic Sites includes the Ebenezer Baptist Church, The King Center. Historic Fire Station #6, and the Birth Home of MLK, Jr.
Near the Visitor Center, is Peace Plaza where the MLK, Jr., "I Have a Dream" World Peace Rose Garden is located.
The Behold Monument is dedicated "to the memory of MLK, Jr., for his moral courage and nobility of spirit." The new Ebenezer Baptist Church is also located the plaza. Services were underway when we visited.
The original Ebenezer Baptist Church, built in 1941-42) is located nearby. King's maternal grandfather and then his father served as pastors here. It was the center of community life and King joined has father as a co-pastor here in the 1960s.
Below is the King Center where exhibits of MLK and a gift shop can be found. The reflecting pool surrounds the tombs of Dr. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King. The Eternal Flame honors King's commitment to the community.
A replica of the stone rendering of King at the MLK, Jr., National Monument is on the National Square in Washington, DC, is on display inside the Center. Also shown is the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to King in 1964, four years before his death.
Historic Fire Station #6, built in 1895, was in operation until 1991. It is currently restored its appears in the 1930s. A 1927 LaFrance fire engine is on display inside. This was the first racially integrated firehouse in Atlanta ( in 1963).
King was born in the upstairs bedroom of this house in 1929. He lived here for 12 years with his parents, grandparents, a sister, brother, uncle, and great aunt until 1941. The house has been restored in the 1930s (King's childhood). Guided tour tickets can be obtained (free) at the Visitor Center. We did not take the tour because we had our dog, Sadie, with us. The Park Bookstore is located in the home next door.
A 1.5 mile Freedom Trail mile connects the MLK, Jr., National Historic Site with the Carter Center and Jimmy Carter Center Library and Museum.
We spent some time exploring the beautiful grounds here. The Sharon Kay Brooks Memorial Lake can be found behind the Library.
Sightless Among Miracles is a bronze sculpture that commemorates the work done by Merck & Company (donated medication) and the Carter Center and River Blindness Foundation (distributed the medication to millions in Africa and Central America) to eradicate the disease (onochocerciasis). For centuries, children served as the "eyes" for their elders until they, too, suffered from the disease.
We highly recommend a visit to the MLK, Jr., National Historic Site if you are near Atlanta. Since we had recently spent the day at the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains, GA, we did not visit the Carter Museum on this trip. Both men made a significant and lasting impact on the civil rights movement in our country. There are so many powerful quotes attributed to King that are as applicable today as they were the day he uttered them. For additional information about the MLK, Jr., National Historic Site, go to this site: www.nps.gov/malu.