Martin Luther King Jr. was a scholar, inspirational speaker and Baptist minister. He led the civil rights movement in the United States from the 1950’s until his assassination on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. He was born as Michael King Jr. on January 15, 1929 and was the middle child of Michael King Sr. and Alberta Williams King.
A few months ago, I had the pleasure to visit Atlanta and view the area that shaped his early life and place of burial. Dr. King was born and raised in an Atlanta neighborhood along Auburn Avenue known locally as “Sweet Auburn”.
(Dr. King's Birth home in Atlanta)
Michael Sr. stepped in as pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta upon the death of his father-in-law in 1931, and adopted the name Martin Luther King Sr. in honor of the German Protestant religious leader Martin Luther. In due time, Michael Jr. would follow his father's lead and adopt the name himself. In 1960, Martin Luther King Jr. became co-pastor of the church with his father.
Among his many efforts, King headed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and played a pivotal role in ending the legal segregation of African-American citizens in the United States, as well as the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He emerged as the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in the Civil Rights Movement and at the age of thirty-five became the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday in the USA was signed into law in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan. It was first observed three years later and took until 2000 for all 50 states to observe the holiday. The idea of Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a national holiday was promoted by labor unions in contract negotiations and then introduced to the U.S. Congress, then fiercely objected to by senators from North Carolina, but finally passed. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is the only federal holiday designated as a National Day of Service and is officially named the national Martin Luther King Day of Service. This year the holiday will be celebrated on Monday, January 16th.
The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park was established on October 10, 1980. The park consists of several buildings in Atlanta, Georgia, including Dr. King's boyhood home, the original Ebenezer Baptist Church, and The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change ("The King Center"). Much of the park is located directly across the street and down a bit from his birth home and the Ebenezer Baptist Church and also to there ar side of those buildings.
At the entrance to the park is a sculpture of the baptism of Kizzy by Kunta Kinte who is a character in the 1976 novel “Roots”.
The large visitor center is very impressive. However, to enter I had to show my COVID vaccination papers which I failed to bring on my trip, so I could not enter.
Across the street from the Visitors Center is the Freedom Plaza. There are the tombs of MLK, Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King.
The tombs are in the middle of a flowing fountain with memorial words and an eternal flame.
(The Eternal Flame)
At the top of the fountain is Freedom Hall (a museum) with murals and a Piano for Peace where visitors are invited to play a tune.
The funeral of Martin Luther King Jr. was held at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on April 9, 1968. There is timed street parking and a small free lot nearby behind Freedom Plaza for visitors. For your GPS, the MLK, Jr. birth house is located at 501 Auburn Ave NE, Atlanta, Georgia,30312.