With Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday coming up tomorrow, one often wonders – what was this great man’s life all about? We all know of the “I Have a Dream” speech and are well aware of the legacy he left behind when he united the White and Colored communities of the United States back in 1964. We are constantly reminded of his contributions he made to the Civil Rights Movement, and we’re pretty well-versed in the activities that took place during his adult life.
But what about his childhood?
This is one of the topics that isn’t often touched much by history books, the media, or historians in general. Where did Martin Luther King Jr. grow up? How did he grow up? What did he spend much of his childhood and younger days doing that culminated into him becoming the famous church minister-turned-civil activist that everyone speaks of today? When you visit Atlanta Georgia, you get the chance to answer all of these questions when you visit the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. What does this entail? Let’s find out!
Once you’ve decided you want to visit the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, make sure you plan to visit well in advance, especially if you want a tour of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home. These tours – especially due to the fact that they are free and operate on a first come, first serve basis –, fill up very quickly. The first tours start at 8 am, so make sure to be at the site bright and early to ensure you get a spot in the tour.
If you decide to go on the tour, the first stop you visit from the visitor’s center will be the birth home. The birth home tour will take you into the very house that Martin Luther King Jr. was born and raised in, and give you a glimpse into how he may have spent his childhood.
Just a few blocks down from Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home, you can find the Ebenezer Baptist Church. This is the church in which Martin Luther King Jr. was baptized, attended as a child, and also the church where he was first ordained as a minister at the age of 19. He stayed with this church until his assassination in 1968.
When you visit this church, you will have the chance to check out the architecture of the church, as well as go inside and sit down for an actual, depending on when you go. The interior, with its vintage red carpeted floors and old-style wooden benches really bring you back to the southern charm of the 60's.
Once you finish up these tours, which are each about a mile away from the actual visitor center, you can head back there where you have the option of watching a short movie, which showcases the life of Martin Luther King Jr., from prior to his birth, to his childhood and youth, to his adulthood, the pinnacle of his existence, and finally, the legacy he’s left behind.
If you’ve got little children, you can also show them the Children of Courage exhibit, which educates younger ones on the significance of the Civil Rights Movement. Once you’re through with these features at the visitor center, you will have gained not only a thorough understanding of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life, but also a chance to have lived vicariously through his younger years.
As you finish enjoying the features in the visitor center, you can make your way to the back of the visitor center and find the King Center. Now, this exhibit is a bit different than the others. It’s not a museum with exhibits or another building, but rather, it’s a pristine pool of water, encompassed by a fire which represents the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and in the middle lays his resting place. On the sides of the King Center, you will find the headstones of Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King.
If any of you live in the Greater Atlanta area, we definitely urge you to take a moment and visit Martin Luther King Jr.’s National Historic site sometime this week. And even if you don’t live around the area, we hope you get the chance to visit sometime in the future!