Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. only lived to be 39 years old but he left a legacy that has not been forgotten. Every third Monday in January people across the United States and around the world celebrate his legacy.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park in Atlanta is open year-round to share the story of the slain civil rights leader. It’s an important place to visit because it’s more than the story of one man. It’s the story of how the world changed because of one man and his dream of a better life for everyone.
The Visitor Center
The Visitor Center has a plethora of information on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life. You can follow his life from his boyhood to his time in a Birmingham jail where he wrote “Letter from a Birmingham Jail. King reiterated his call for legal and non-violent pressure it that letter that is now considered an important historical document.
Two exhibits stood out to me during our time at the Visitor Center. One was the Freedom Road. Life-size mannequins of all ages and races were depicted walking this road. The exhibit is a reminder of the marches for freedom led by MLK. You can join the marchers during your visit.
Dr. King was carried on a farm wagon led by two mules named “Belle and Ada” during his funeral procession that you can see in the Visitor Center. Next to the wagon is a beautiful cross made of white lilies. It is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I often share this picture on social media during the MLK holiday weekend or other civil rights commemorations.
Ebenezer Baptist Church
The church were Dr. King once served as assistant pastor to his father is part of the tour. Martin Luther King, Sr. was appointed senior pastor in 1931 and served for 44 years. The church has changed little since the kings preached there.
You will find beautiful stained glass windows with the names of church members. A piano sits a few feet from the pulpit.
The church was built in 1922. A new sanctuary was built in 1999 across the street from the original location.
The International Peace Rose Garden
The rose garden is located outside of the historical site. Unfortunately, the roses weren’t in bloom during our visit. We did capture some beautiful daffodils sprouting in February.
The King Center
Across the street from the Visitors Center is the King Center. Outside is the reflection pool. There you will find the final resting place of Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King. Also there is the eternal flame which represents Dr. King’s vision.
Freedom Hall has more exhibits about Dr. King. We also learned about other civil rights leaders. One room is dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi. According to the exhibit, Dr. King was influenced Indian civil rights leader. Ironically, Gandhi was assassinated in 1948, 20 years before Dr. King’s assassination.
Tips for visiting the Martin Luther King, Junior Historical Site
If you want to visit MLK’s boyhood home, you need to get there early. The U.S. Park Service only offers limited tours. We arrived for our visit around 11 a.m. and all the tours were already booked. We plan on going back and getting there earlier.
Sometimes we go through a museum or historic site quickly. This is one that needs to be taken slowly. We spent a total nearly three hours between the three sites and I could have stayed longer. You can find directions and operating hours here