Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr.
During a trip to Atlanta we felt compelled to visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, comprised of several facilities operated in partnership with the National Park Service, Ebenezer Baptist Church and The King Center. We recall the influence and leadership this man had on our nation’s history as we tour the sites. This is history we lived through – remembering life before and after the thrust of the Civil Rights Movement, remembering the highlights and tragedies of Dr. King’s life.
The National Park Service Visitor Center provides an orientation and perspective in the featured exhibit Courage To Lead. Films, New Time, New Voice and Children of Courage run throughout the day in the theatre. I found the Freedom Road exhibit a powerful memorial to everyday people, the “foot soldiers,” dedicated to the Civil Rights Movement through their actions of non-violent protests – marches, sit-ins, demonstrations while facing resistance, physical harm and potential arrest.
Visiting the park is self-guided except for ranger led tours of the MLK Birth Home. Tours are conducted on a first-come, first-served basis the day of the tour, no advance reservations. Tours last about 30 minutes, starting every half hour between 10 am and 5 pm. Birth Home tours fill quickly, register early in the day at the Visitor Center information desk.
Outside the visitors center, in the Peace Plaza, stands Behold by sculptor Patrick Morelli. The ancient African ritual of lifting a newborn child to the heavens and reciting the words, “Behold the only thing greater than yourself,” inspired the monumental sculpture.
Across Auburn Avenue stands the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church where Rev. King and his father both preached and the site of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s funeral. The Heritage Sanctuary is currently closed for restoration, projected reopening is late 2009.
The King Center was established in 1968 by Coretta Scott King to preserve the legacy of her husband and his role as leader of America’s greatest nonviolent movement for justice, equality and peace. Exhibits record the works and time-lines of Dr. King, Jr., Coretta Scott King and Mahatma Gandhi.
We ended our visit across the reflecting pool from King’s crypt. A quiet moment for our own reflections.
January 15, 2009 would have been Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 80th birthday. I can’t but marvel at the impact the man had during the 39 years he lived, a forever impact on equality and justice.
The National Historic Site is open daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s days. Current visitor information at 404-331-6922 or on the website. For a comprehensive visit plan at minimum one-half day.