Situated among Auburn, Edgewood, Irwin, Jackson and Randolph Avenues in Atlanta, Georgia, The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site is a complex of buildings integral to the life and legacy of the esteemed Nobel Peace Prize recipient. It includes the home where he spent his childhood; Ebenezer Baptist Church, where his father and he served as pastors; and the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, a repository that contains the largest collection of primary materials on Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement in the world!
This 35-acre site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1974 and increased in 2001. Designated as a National Historic Landmark District in 1977, it was designated a National Historic Site in 1980. Under the charge of King’s close friend, Representative John Lewis (D-GA), the site was expanded. Areas of it came under the auspices of the National Park Service, rendering its status to also be designated as a national historic park.
The King Visitor Center houses a museum that provides content, including exhibits, videos and art, that parallel significant events of Martin Luther King, Jr. with that of the Civil Rights Movement. It is here that visitors may “travel” on “Freedom Road” a path of liberation and peace. They may also be inspired by the Children of Courage exhibit which discusses the essential roles that children played in the Civil Rights Movement and can engage in during contemporary times.
Founded in 1968 by Coretta Scott King after the assassination of her husband, Martin, the nongovernmental, not-for-profit King Center actually began in the basement of the King home. Its mission, according to its website, is to “prepare global citizens to create a more just, humane and peaceful world using Rev. Dr. King’s nonviolent philosophy and methodology.” On this site are the burial sites of Martin and Coretta as well as a reflection pool.
At the King Center are the papers and ephemera of Rev. Dr. King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization that he co-founded. Here, according to its site, are “the records of 8 major civil rights organizations and of several individuals active in the Movement. The archives also include more than 200 oral history interviews with Dr. King’s teachers, friends, family and civil rights associates.”
A preserved 1894 firehouse has been renovated to host a gift shop and exhibition on the desegregation of the Atlanta Fire Department. It was known as Fire Station #6 and served the Sweet Auburn community for almost one-hundred years.
Onsite are a memorial to Mohandas K. Gandhi, a hero of King; the International World Peace Rose Garden; and the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame. This tribute was conceived by civil rights activist Xernona Clayton, founder and executive producer of the Trumpet Awards, which celebrate Black excellence. This walk, comprised of granite and bronze, is dedicated to courageous persons throughout history and the world include Medgar Evers, Jimmy Carter, Dorothy L. Height, Stevie Wonder, Nancy Wilson, Wyatt T. Walker and Perry Gladstone Christie. According to the site of the National Park Service, the Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site was created to “pay homage to the ‘brave warriors’ of justice who sacrificed and struggled to make equality a reality for all.”
There are tours that may be arranged for groups but this site is primarily designed for self-guided tours. It is open every day, from 9 am to 5 pm, but it is suggested to check its availability on holidays.
For more details on the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, please review the following, which is sourced from its site:
- Dr. & Mrs. King’s Crypt
In 1968, after he was assassinated, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was carried upon a farm wagon drawn by mules to Southview Cemetery. In 1970, Dr. King’s remains were removed from Southview Cemetery to now what is the current King Center campus, and in 2006 his crypt was rebuilt to also include the remains of Mrs. Coretta Scott King. Dr. & Mrs. King’s crypt is constructed of Georgia marble, a timeless acknowledgement of his southern roots.
- The Eternal Flame
The Eternal Flame symbolizes the continuing effort to realize Dr. King’s dream of the “Beloved Community,” which was his vision for a world of justice, peace and equality for all mankind.
- Freedom Hall
Location – 449 Auburn Avenue, NE.
Freedom Hall is the exhibition location on campus, as well as the primary location for special events and programs. It contains a Grand Foyer, large theater/conference auditorium, Bookstore & Resource Center and various works of art from across the globe. The Grand Foyer features art from Africa and Georgia, and the paneling lining the staircase is from the sapeli tree which grows in Nigeria. At present, Freedom Hall’s second floor is utilized as exhibit space honoring Dr. and Mrs. King, Mahatma Gandhi and Rosa Parks.
- Dr. King’s Birth Home
Location – 501 Auburn Avenue, NE.
Contact: National Park Service at 404-331-6922.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born January 15, 1929 at 501 Auburn Avenue, the home of his maternal grandparents. For the next twelve years he lived here with his grandparents, parents, siblings, other family members and boarders. The home is located in the residential section of “Sweet Auburn”, the center of Black Atlanta. The Birth Home of Dr. King may be visited only with a park ranger led tour, which is filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Register for the tour at the Information Desk, located in Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site Visitor Center, in person upon arrival to the park. The tour is strictly limited to 15 people per tour. Tours fill up fast on weekends and holidays so plan accordingly.
Tours of Dr. King’s The Birth Home are conducted by the National Park Service on a first-come, first-served basis. Registrations are available at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site Visitor Center and must be made in person the day of the tour. No advance reservations can be made. There are only 15 persons permitted on a tour. Groups can reserve up to three spaces (45 persons) the day of their tour. Please Note: Tours fill up fast on weekends and holidays so plan accordingly.
The Birth Home tour schedule is below:
- Sunday – Saturday (7 days a week)
The first Birth Home tour begins at 10:00am and the last tour is 5:00pm. The 30 minutes tour is conducted every hour.
Special Summer Hours (Memorial Day Weekend – Labor Day)
The first Birth Home tour begins at 9:30am and the last tour is 5:30pm. The 30 minutes tour is conducted every half hour.
- Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church (Heritage Sanctuary)
Location – 407 Auburn Avenue, NE
In this sacred place were sown the seeds of greatness from which Martin Luther King, Jr. blossomed. In 1893, Dr. King’s maternal grandfather, Rev. A.D. Williams, became Ebenezer’s second pastor, eventually succeeded by Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr., who served as Ebenezer’s third pastor from 1933 until his retirement in 1975. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. served as co-pastor in 1947 until he left to attend Crozer Theological Seminary in September 1948. From 1960 until his assassination in 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. again co-pastored Ebenezer Baptist Church. In 2011, the church was restored to the 1960 – 1968 period.
Portions of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site are managed and operated by the U.S. National Park Service. Please visit their website for more information about planning your visit, such as maps, directions, and operating hours at http://www.nps.gov/malu/index.htm.