Atlanta is known for its legacy of the Civil Rights Movement, especially as the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The Nobel Peace Prize winner grew up in the historic Sweet Auburn neighborhood, where he worked as a pastor at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, and there are many tributes to him throughout the city. Here’s how to learn more about the movement in Atlanta during Black History Month.
Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site
Start at the visitor’s center, which educates the public on Dr. King’s life and legacy, with artifacts like the carriage that held his casket during his funeral and exhibits on the role of children in the movement. The historic site includes the visitor’s center, Dr. King’s birthplace down the street, and Fire Station No. 6 – one of the region’s first desegregated firehouses. The birth home is open for tours daily, but they are first come, first served.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent and Social Change
Pay your respects to Dr. King and his wife Coretta at their tombs at the King Center, where there is also an eternal flame burning in their honor. Inside the King Center are exhibits on his life, including a Grammy he won for spoken word and the room key from the Lorraine Motel in Memphis where he was killed. Upstairs galleries also showcase Dr. King’s contemporaries and influences like Rosa Parks and Mahatma Gandhi.
Ebenezer Baptist Church
While the church now has a larger location across the street, little has changed from Dr. King’s time at the original building, where he was a co-pastor with his father and later where his funeral took place. A portrait of him still hangs in the lobby. The church hosts a commemorative service every Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Explore the Sweet Auburn neighborhood where Dr. King lived and worked. Centered around Auburn Avenue, this was and still is the home of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the organization responsible for the planning of many of the movement’s marches. The neighborhood can be explored with Civil Bikes, a company offering Civil Rights focused walking and biking tours.
Today, you’ll also find a large mural of Dr. King’s colleague Representative John Lewis (and author of the March graphic novel series) near Condesa Coffee, a coffee shop in the former office of the city’s oldest black newspaper, the Atlanta Daily World. You’ll also find the APEX Museum, which focuses on the African-American experience as a diaspora, with exhibits that focus on the Sweet Auburn neighborhood and the legacy of Black Atlantans. For Keeps bookstore sells books on the topic, including those by Dr. King.
The Municipal Market, formerly the Curb Market, was named for the time during segregation when African Americans were only allowed to shop from the stalls along the curb. The functioning fresh food market opened in 1924 and now has food stalls ranging from burgers to burritos to barbecue. Atlanta Food Walks offers tours with a side of history that stop here and at other local restaurants.
The Center for Civil and Human Rights
Located in Centennial Olympic Park, the Center for Civil and Human Rights has exhibits on both the Civil Rights Movement and modern human rights struggles for women, immigrants, the handicapped, and the LGBT communities. Don’t miss the Morehouse Collection of documents that belonged to Dr. King.
For a deeper dive into Atlanta’s role in the Civil Rights Movement and African American history, visit the campus of Morehouse College, Dr. King’s alma mater, the statue that honors him at the Georgia State Capitol, and Paschal’s, a favorite eatery of Civil Rights figures.