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U.S.A.: Martin Luther King Jr Historic Site

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Martin Luther King Jr Historic Site | U.S.A. | Americas

[Visited: April 1990, July 2015]

After 25 years, it was time to pay another visit to the Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site in Atlanta. Walking from downtown Atlanta, I pass the new Ebenezer Baptist Church Horizon Sanctuary, a modern building which Dr. King surely never saw in his lifetime. The small Peace Plaza has a statue and a rose garden with plaques displaying messages from kids around the world about Martin Luther King, and peace in general. Outside the Visitor Center, I find a long, colourful mural depicting the struggle for social justice in the 1960s: demonstrations, slogans, and some historical figures that played a major role, among which, inevitably, Martin Luther King himself. Inside, I find out that the first possible guided tour of the birth home of MLK will be three hours later, despite the fact that I am pretty early. The tour fills up quickly, and I now have plenty of time to learn more about the most famous son of Atlanta.

Picture of Martin Luther King Jr  Historic Site (U.S.A.): The tombs of Martin Luther King and Loretta Scott King at the King Center

For starters, there is a small cinema, in which I watch a video about the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., in which I learn more about his non-violent approach in the fight for racial equality, in which Mahatma Gandhi served as a role model. Then, as I walk through the exhibition which is as much about Martin Luther King, as it is about the struggle of the 1960s, I am always more amazed about the main issue. Even in the Sixties, apartheid existed in the USA, racial equality was still something that was hotly debated in the USA, and it was something for which people had to fight hard; some even paid the highest price in this struggle. They have not fought in vain; and I wonder if any of those protestors, and even Martin Luther King himself, could have imagined that it would take another four decades for their country to have an Afro-American president.

Picture of Martin Luther King Jr  Historic Site (U.S.A.): Some of the banners used in demonstrations in the 1960s

A separate room is dedicated to the Nobel Peace Prize which was awarded to Martin Luther King in 1964: it lists some of the other candidates, shows newspapers of the day he was announced winner, of the award ceremony, of the considerations of the committee to hand the Civil Rights leader the prestigious prize. Outside, I walk across the street and along the reflecting pool; at the end, there is a small circular terrace on which the tombs of both Martin Luther King and his wife Coretta Scott King rest. Under the trees, there is an eternal flame, and fragments from his most famous speeches (of course, "I have a dream", and "Free at Last") can be heard all the time. A little further up the street, Fire Station No. 6 has been turned into a small museum as well, where Martin Luther King played as a child, and which would become the first racially integrated firehouse of the city. When time has come, I walk a few houses up street to join the tour of the house of the King family in a small group. Our guide has a lot of stories to tell, and shows us the ins and outs of the house where he was born and spent his childhood. After the visit, I go to the reflecting pool with the tombs again, and pay my respects to this great leader who never lived to see his dream come true. How, I wonder, would he see the current state of affairs in the USA, which is so different from his own time?

Picture of Martin Luther King Jr  Historic Site (U.S.A.): The struggle for social justice in the 1960s, in which Martin Luther King played a major role, depicted in this colourful mural
Picture of Martin Luther King Jr  Historic Site (U.S.A.): Martin Luther King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964
Picture of Martin Luther King Jr  Historic Site (U.S.A.): The house where Martin Luther King was born on January 15, 1929 can be visited
Picture of Martin Luther King Jr  Historic Site (U.S.A.): Scene inside the Visitor Center with Martin Luther King in a reflective pose
Picture of Martin Luther King Jr  Historic Site (U.S.A.): Martin Luther King called the Ebenezer Baptist Church his second home
Picture of Martin Luther King Jr  Historic Site (U.S.A.): The tombs of Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King, with the reflecting pool and part of the King Center in the background
Picture of Martin Luther King Jr  Historic Site (U.S.A.): Speeches of Martin Luther King can be heard at the eternal flame, close to his tomb and the reflecting pool
Picture of Martin Luther King Jr  Historic Site (U.S.A.): Martin Luther King was born and grew up close to Fire Station No. 6, the first racially integrated firehouse of Atlanta
Picture of Martin Luther King Jr  Historic Site (U.S.A.): Messages from kids around the world can be found at this rose garden at the Peace Plaza outside the visitor centre
Picture of Martin Luther King Jr  Historic Site (U.S.A.): Carriage used for the funeral of Martin Luther King
Picture of Martin Luther King Jr  Historic Site (U.S.A.): People marching in the visitor center

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