Atlanta, capital of the state of Georgia, is home to the head offices of world-famous American corporations like Coca-Cola, CNN and Delta Airlines. Atlanta was also the hometown of Martin Luther King Jr., who was born in the city on 15 January 1929. The house where King was born, at 501 Auburn Avenue, is still there and offers visitors guided tours. Close to the house is Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King’s father was a preacher.
The neighborhood around Martin Luther King’s birthplace and Ebenezer Baptist Church has been designated as the Martin Luther King National Historic Site and has for several years a visitor center offering a wealth of information and permanent and temporary exhibitions on King’s life and the US civil rights movement. Between the visitor center and the car park there is the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame, with the footprints of Jesse Jackson, Desmond Tutu, John Lewis and many other civil rights activists and others working towards a fair and equal world.
After King’s assassination, his wife Coretta Scott King set up the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change to keep her husband’s message alive and contemporary. The Center houses the King Library and Archives, which comprise the largest collection of documents on Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement. In the adjacent Freedom Hall, there is a small permanent exhibition on King and his wife, with personal memorabilia including articles of clothing and King’s travel valise. There is also a small exhibition on Rosa Parks, who became famous for her role in the Montgomery bus boycott. The grave of Martin Luther King and his wife, bearing one of his legendary statements, ‘Free at last, Free at last!’, is located behind the King Center.
Following in the footsteps of Martin Luther King through Atlanta will also take you to Morehouse College, where he studied for some years as a teenager. Besides a statue and the Martin Luther King Chapel, the College has a library with an astounding collection of documents and memorabilia.
Less accessible to the passing visitor, but still with a strong connection to King, is the Prince Hall Masonic Building, the former headquarters of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. King founded the SCLC and, from 1960, it was the home base of his struggle for equal rights in the Southern States of the US. More accounts of Afro-American history in Atlanta and in the US as a whole are to be found in the small Apex Museum.
The link between Atlanta and Martin Luther King Jr. will shortly become even stronger. In 2014 a brand-new National Center for Civil and Human Rights will open its doors. The new center will be located between the Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coca-Cola and the Centennial Olympic Park. It will then be completely impossible for visitors to the city to miss out on Atlanta’s memories of Martin Luther King.
For more information on visiting Atlanta: http://www.atlanta.net/