Martin Luther King, Jr. NHS in Atlanta, Georgia, protects birthplace and boyhood home of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and commemorates the history of the civil rights movement in the US.
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“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Our Weather Clear with a temperature in the mid 40s
Overall Impression This National Historic Site is more than just the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; it is more aptly described as a tribute to the legacy of Dr. King and the American Civil Rights Movement he symbolized. The NHS is set in bustling downtown Atlanta, and it is a mix of historic buildings and modern buildings and monuments. The historic buildings include the house he was born in and the church he was raised in and preached in; and the modern fixtures include the King Center, Dr. King’s tomb, an eternal flame and the Civil Rights Walk of Fame. Fittingly, the displays, tours and monuments serve as both a reminder of our past as a nation and the progress that’s been made due in great part to the work Dr. King began.
“It may well be that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition is not the glaring noisiness of the so-called bad people, but the appalling silence of the so-called good people” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Visiting Plan to spend at least 2 hours in the MLK NHS. You’ll need this much time to view the exhibits, walk around the neighborhood and take the birth home tour. Before you go, read up on the tour schedule and other events on the official NPS page for the site, and time your visit to give yourself at least 45 minutes in the visitors center before the tour. Start your visit at the visitors center where you can pick up a map and spend some time walking through the civil rights exhibit with hundreds of photos and six short videos–this will give you an education on conditions before, during and after the Civil Rights Movement and a better context for the rest of the site’s buildings and monuments. On your way to the visitors center from the parking lot, you’ll pass two of these monuments, the Civil Rights Walk of Fame and the Ghandi statue, placed there to commemorate the source of Dr. King’s inspiration for non-violent “civil disobedience” to bring about change.
If you don’t have a lot of time, split your time between the visitors center and the King Center where you can visit the tomb of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King. The tomb is in the middle of a beautiful blue reflecting pool across from an eternal flame. If you have more time, the tour of Dr. King’s birth home is worth the 30 minutes. The tour sizes are small (15 people), so you’ll want to sign up for a tour slot early. While the website said tour sign ups were at the visitors center, we had to go to Freedom Hall at the King Center to sign up for our tour. The tour starts at Fire Station No. 6, one of the historic buildings (built in 1894) that also serves as a gift shop and a small museum. Photos are not allowed in the birth house, but inside, you’ll see things restored to the way they were in the 1930s when Dr. King, his siblings, his parents, grandmother and other family members lived. Our NPS tour guide was very knowledgeable about Dr. King’s childhood and related stories of how a young Martin Luther King, Jr. used to hide from his chores, pull the heads off his sister’s dolls and jump off the balcony on the front of the house. If you have more time, you can stroll along Auburn Avenue and see the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church (the sanctuary was not open when we visited) and other historic buildings or get in your car and drive across the interstate to see the rest of the Sweet Auburn Preservation District (not a part of the NHS).
In case you are unfamiliar with Atlanta’s downtown, this area of Atlanta has been well restored and is home to many businesses and modern residences surrounding the historic area. Despite the restoration, you can still expect to encounter things common to any downtown including the occasional panhandler with a convincing story asking for your money. If you’re unsure of what to do in this situation, I would advise you to read the notice about panhandling on the Ebenezer Baptist Church’s window first.
Nearby Towns Atlanta, GA
Other Nearby Attractions Georgia Aquarium, Underground Atlanta, World of Coca-Cola, Kennesaw Mountain NBP
Official NPS Website Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site
“We must all learn to live together as brothers, or we will all perish together as fools” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
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