Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument Park in Dublin, Georgia

Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument Park in Dublin, Georgia

4 Black History Experiences in Dublin

See where the dream began for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and much more in this town just off I-16.

In middle Georgia, the city of Dublin, located nearly halfway between Atlanta and Savannah, makes a convenient and worthwhile stop on I-16 — not only for its downtown restaurants and shops, but also for its historic sites. In fact, the city has a little-known connection to the civil rights movement.

Although many people know about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s connection to Atlanta, they are often surprised to learn that his first public speech occurred in this small town more than 130 miles away. Be sure to seek out these four sites in Dublin to learn more about Dr. King and the civil rights movement in Georgia. Some of these places are also stops along Georgia's Footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Trail, offering a look at his life and legacy around the state.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument Park

1. Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument Park

Located at the gateway to Downtown Dublin, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument Park welcomes you to the city with a colorful mural by Georgia artist, Corey Barksdale. The mural depicts a young girl wishing for a better tomorrow with the need for future generations to carry on Dr. King's message of peaceable change.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument Park. Photo by Kalin Thomas
Photo by Kalin Thomas

The small park includes a semicircular concrete wall with a timeline of signature events in King's life and career, and a solar-powered audio box where you can listen to a modern rendition of the first public speech Dr. King made at the church directly across the street from the park.

First African Baptist Church of Dublin, Georgia

2. First African Baptist Church

A signature site on Georgia's Footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Trail is First African Baptist Church, the oldest African American church in the city, established in 1867. It was here that on April 17, 1944, a 14-year-old Martin King, who was a student at Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, delivered a speech entitled, "The Negro and the Constitution." King won the oratory contest, which was part of the Colored Elks Clubs of Georgia state convention. Little did the audience know it was the first public speech of one who would eventually lead the modern civil rights movement.

Martin Luther King, Jr. marker at First African Baptist Church of Dublin
Martin Luther King, Jr. marker at First African Baptist Church of Dublin

Call ahead to book a group tour of the church and participate in a fun and informative skit, "Hub Dudley's Interaction with Dr. King," written to take visitors back to 1944 and the events leading up to the oratory contest and King's speech. And, visit in April, when Dublin hosts its annual speech contest to continue Dr. King's legacy. The contest is open to children in grade 6 and higher, as well as adults.

Oratorical speech contest in Dublin, Georgia
Oratorical speech contest in Dublin, Georgia

If you visit on a Sunday, get your praise on at the church's 10:45 a.m. service. You could be praising next to Carl Pearson, grandson of Herbert "Hub" Dudley, and great-grandson of Clayton Dudley, who founded the Dudley Funeral Home, originally C.D. Dudley & Son Undertakers and Embalmers. Pearson can tell you how these men were leaders in Dublin's African American business community and the civil rights movement, and how "Hub" Dudley built a black business empire during the era of segregation.

Carl Pearson at First African Baptist Church. Photo by Kalin Thomas
Carl Pearson at First African Baptist Church. Photo by Kalin Thomas

There was a savings and loan, a restaurant, The Dudley Motel, the Laborers-Mechanics Realty and Investment Company (a savings and loan association), a shoe shop, a saw mill, a roller skating rink, a drug store, a poolroom, a beauty shop, a barbershop, a guest house, The Laurens Casket Company, Dudley's Funeral Home, and the Amoco # 2 service station. He and his wife also developed "Dudley's Retreat" in the rear of the service station as a gathering place for the community. And during World War II, Dudley worked to establish a USO for black servicemen on South Lawrence Street. Most of those businesses no longer exist, but Dudley Funeral Home is still in operation, where Carl Pearson is the director of client services.

The Dudley Motel in Dublin, Georgia

3. Dudley Motel/Historic Downtown Dublin Walking Tour

During its heyday, The Dudley Motel was the lodging site for African American visitors to Dublin, including civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Currently you can only visit the exterior of the now defunct motel, but there are plans to turn it into a museum honoring the Dudley family and Dublin's African American business history. The motel is one of 70 historic landmarks on the self-guided Historic Downtown Dublin Walking Tour. Pick up a printed guide at the Dublin Regional Visitors Information Center just off exit 51 on I-16.

Dublin-Laurens Museum, Heritage, & Cultural Center

4. Dublin-Laurens County Heritage Center

Visit the Dublin-Laurens County Heritage Center in the Laurens County Library to explore a large collection of genealogical information on Dublin's African American residents. Permanent and special exhibits include displays on the area's natural history, early Native American inhabitants, African American history, music and sports history.

Published: September 2018
Written by: Kalin Thomas
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