Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument Park in Dublin, Georgia. Photo by @mhsherman29
King's Journey in Georgia
Five must-see stops on Georgia's Footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Trail
The significance of Georgia's civil rights legacy is undeniable. It's the state where the movement's most prominent leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was born and raised, where he preached and organized, where he learned valuable lessons, and where he and his wife are buried. A statewide tour, Georgia's Footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Trail, helps tell that history, taking visitors through 28 attractions in eight cities. Here’s a quick look at five of those stops. For a full guide to the trail, check out exploregeorgia.org/footsteps.
Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church
Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Photo by @kodysworld2
One of the most important black churches in Atlanta, Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church was the religious home of Sweet Auburn, the historic commercial and cultural district of Atlanta's black elite. The Gothic-style church, which dates back to 1886, played a major role in King's upbringing — his grandfather and father preached here — and hosted important civil rights rallies and meetings, including founding meetings of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. King himself served as its co-pastor, and, after his assassination, Ebenezer hosted King's funeral. Go to see the restored sanctuary and to attend a service under the Reverend Dr. Raphael Warnock.
The King Center
Visited by nearly 1 million people annually, The King Center has a tranquil, outdoor reflecting pool surrounding the Georgia marble crypt where King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, are buried. View the Eternal Flame, which symbolizes the work still to be done to create King’s dream, admire international works of art in Freedom Hall, and peruse a collection of more than 1 million letters, writings, photographs, and oral histories from King and his contemporaries.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument Park
Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument Park in Dublin, Georgia. Photo by @maplover2
This park memorializes where King — at age 15 — delivered his first public speech, "The Negro and the Constitution." Featuring an expansive mural of bold colors and a seven-foot sculpture, both by Atlanta artist Corey Barksdale, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument Park has free admission and an audio station that plays King's speech, as well as other recordings. One recounts how King, on his way back to Atlanta after his speech, was asked — for the first time — to give up his seat to a white passenger. Across the street, visitors can tour Dublin’s historic First African Baptist Church, another stop on the statewide trail.
Albany Civil Rights Institute
This museum commemorates the early 1960s Albany civil rights movement, in which activists — including King — attempted to end segregation in the southwest Georgia community. King would later say that the movement failed to accomplish its goal, but Albany's historic importance comes from the lessons learned there. (They were applied to later, successful movements in Birmingham, Alabama, and beyond.) The Albany Civil Rights Institute showcases oral histories from some of the movement's members and hosts the collection of Danny Lyon, whose humanizing civil rights photography "helped make the movement move," according to activist Julian Bond. Hear the Freedom Singers every second Saturday of the month at Old Mount Zion Baptist Church, which is part of the institute. They perform classic songs from the era, such as "We Shall Overcome" and "This Little Light of Mine."
First African Baptist Church
First African Baptist Church in Savannah. Photo by @genteelandbardsavannah
One of the oldest continually operating black churches in the country, First African Baptist Church was organized by the Reverend George Leile in 1773 — three years before the United States declared its independence. Over the centuries, church leaders have been instrumental in civil rights activism, including contributing to the Underground Railroad, creating Georgia's oldest public historically black college (Savannah State University), and helping integrate Savannah's police department. Past speakers at the church have included U.S. Rep. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. and King.