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Martin Luther King Walking Tour (Self Guided), Atlanta

The most recognized spokesperson and leader of the Civil Rights Movement in the late 1950s and 1960s, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a Baptist Minister who used non-violent and civil disobedience tactics to advance the civil rights cause. Though he's had his share of critics, this world is a better place because of him and this is where it all started!

Other than Dr. King's birthplace which is well maintained and fascinating to visit, there is also the very moving Ebenezer Baptist Church, the Visitor Center of course, and the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame along with an intriguing Freedom Hall museum located next to the crypts of Dr. King Jr and his wife. All of the aforementioned are free to observe, so follow our self-guided walk to maximize your experience in the shortest time!
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Martin Luther King Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Martin Luther King Walking Tour
Guide Location: USA » Atlanta (See other walking tours in Atlanta)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.0 Km or 0.6 Miles
Author: doris
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church
  • Ebenezer Baptist Church: New Horizon Sanctuary
  • Martin Luther King Park Visitor Center
  • Gandhi Promenade
  • International Civil Rights Walk of Fame
  • King Center for Nonviolent Social Change
  • Freedom Hall
  • Dr. King's Tomb
  • Birth Home of Martin Luther King, Jr.
1
Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church

1) Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church (must see)

Located within the confines of MLK Memorial Park, part of the National Park Service, this church is preserved in a manner that you could just have easily walked into 1960s Atlanta to hear a sermon by Dr. King, himself. Visits don't take terribly long, as there isn't much to read, nor are there exhibits to interact with. Simply take a seat and let it all sink in to get a sense of the man and his mission of peace – preferably before attending a Sunday-morning worship service in the adjacent new sanctuary.

Founded in 1886, Ebenezer was a spiritual center of the civil rights movement from 1960 to 1968, during which time Martin Luther King, Jr., served as co-pastor. One of the best parts is the opportunity to talk with the park rangers who not only take great care of this site, but are extremely knowledgeable and passionate about all things MLK. Also, Sunday morning visitors get to see the ongoing congregation flow in and out of service – a testament to the continuity of history and tradition.

It is highly recommended that you start your visit to the MLK Memorial Park here, where it essentially all began, and set the tone perfectly for your entire visit to the area.

Why You Should Visit:
To sit in the same pews, have the same views, and actually listen (over loud speakers) to the same sermons Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave, which helped propel the civil rights movement. A surreal, moving and certainly unique experience; a great place to begin a tour of Dr. King's life and legacy – and admission is free.

Tip:
Plan to stay 2-3 hours or more to experience the church, the sanctuary, and the surrounding historic neighborhood.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 10am–5pm
2
Ebenezer Baptist Church: New Horizon Sanctuary

2) Ebenezer Baptist Church: New Horizon Sanctuary

The New Horizon Sanctuary, located across the street from the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church/Sanctuary, was built in 1999 and seats 1,600 people. Choosing to maintain its commitment of service to the urban community in a time when many churches were moving to the suburbs, it now forms part of the MLK National Historical Park, and was designed by architectural firm Stanley, Love-Stanley, P.C. along with the associated educational building, peace plaza, bell tower and prayer garden.

As the "historic" sanctuary is now used for special occasions only, regular services (Sunday Worship: 9am/11am; Wednesdays: 7-8 pm) are held here, with a special annual commemorative service featuring tributes to the life and achievement of Dr. King from national and international leaders. The building itself, modeled after an African tribal meeting hut, has a roof ribbing that is strongly reminiscent of African thatch, while the bell tower is a weave-and-glyph-patterned obelisk.
3
Martin Luther King Park Visitor Center

3) Martin Luther King Park Visitor Center

The National Park Service Visitor Center provides a complete orientation to area attractions (such as Martin Luther King's boyhood home and the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King's father and grandfather were ministers and King served as a co-pastor) and features a multimedia exhibit titled "Courage to Lead", which follows the parallel paths of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. Visitors can also walk down a stylized "Freedom Road" or see what's new in the D.R.E.A.M Gallery, home of special exhibits that change from time to time. The "Children of Courage" exhibit, geared towards children and youth, tells the story of the children of the Civil Rights Movement with a challenge to the youth of today. Video programs are presented on a continuing basis and there is a staffed information desk.

Tip:
Arrive early to get tickets for your free tour of Dr. King's Birth Home before the limited number is distributed.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am–5pm
4
Gandhi Promenade

4) Gandhi Promenade

Prominently displayed on the grounds of the MLK National Historic Site is a statue dedicated to political ethicist, Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), whose beliefs in nonviolent resistance strongly influenced Dr. King. The only statue on the grounds, it was donated by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations in collaboration with The National Federation of Indian American Associations and The Embassy of India, USA. The inscribed bronze plaque reads:

"Nonviolence, to be a potent force, must begin with the mind. Nonviolence of the mere body without the cooperation of the mind is nonviolence of the weak of the cowardly, and has, therefore, no potency. It is a degrading performance. If we bear malice and hatred in our bosoms and pretend not to retaliate, it must recoil upon us and lead to our destruction."
— Gandhi

"Tribute to the Mahatma Gandhi was inevitable. If humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable. He lived, thought and acted, inspired by the vision of humanity evolving toward a world of peace and harmony. We may ignore him at our own risk."
— Martin Luther King Jr.
5
International Civil Rights Walk of Fame

5) International Civil Rights Walk of Fame

Part of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, the Walk of Fame was created in 2004 to honor some of the participants in the Civil Rights Movement and consists of a promenade that showcases the footstep impressions of those honored, marked in granite and bronze. According to the National Park Service, which runs the historic site, the Walk of Fame was created "to pay homage to the brave warriors of justice who sacrificed and struggled to make equality a reality for all." Another motivation was to enhance the historic value of the area, enrich its cultural heritage, and augment tourist attractions.

The Walk of Fame is the brainchild of Xernona Clayton, founder and executive producer of the renowned Trumpet Awards and a civil rights activist in her own right. Ms. Clayton said, "This is a lasting memorial to those whose contributions were testaments to the fact that human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. This historic site will serve as a symbol of pride and a beacon of hope for all future generations. We are looking forward to building a monument to the civil struggle that depicts every step taken toward the goal of justice and the tireless exertions and passionate concern of these dedicated individuals."
6
King Center for Nonviolent Social Change

6) King Center for Nonviolent Social Change

Admirers of Martin Luther King, Jr. will be enthralled by many of the historical displays collected by the King Center, which also includes a theater for audiovisual and interpretive programs, interactive exhibits, a gift shop and a bookstore. It's fronted by a beautifully landscaped plaza with a reflecting pool, King's crypt (which his wife had returned to the site several years ago), and an outdoor amphitheater for NPS programs.

History buffs should definitely visit the museum, which houses some the most memorable artifacts from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. These include the jail cell Dr. King stayed in after being arrested for civil disobedience in Birmingham (where he also wrote "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"), to the carriage that carried his casket from Ebenezer to Morehouse with some 200,000 mourners. There is even a clock with the time of King's assassination – almost as if time stood still at that exact moment.

Tip:
You can spend about an hour here, but give yourself longer if you want to watch the many video clips from the era.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am–5pm; 9am–6pm (Memorial Day Weekend – Labor Day)
7
Freedom Hall

7) Freedom Hall

Freedom Hall at 449 Auburn Avenue is where memorabilia of Dr. King and the civil rights movement are displayed. It contains a Grand Foyer with art from Africa and Georgia, as well as a large theater/conference auditorium, bookstore and resource center. The paneling lining the staircase is from the sapeli tree, which grows in Nigeria.

Here, you can see King's Bible and clerical robe, a handwritten sermon, a photographic essay about his life and work, and, on a grim note, the suit he was wearing when a deranged woman stabbed him in New York City. Also on display is the key to his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., where he was assassinated.

In an alcove off the main exhibit area is a video about King's life and works. Additional exhibits include a room honoring Rosa Parks (whose refusal to give up her seat on a city bus led to the Montgomery bus boycott), and another honoring Mahatma Gandhi, whose emphasis on nonviolence was a major influence on King.

All of this for no charge, but there are donation boxes to make a contribution.

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am–5pm; 9am–6pm (Memorial Day Weekend – Labor Day)
8
Dr. King's Tomb

8) Dr. King's Tomb

In addition to serving as a museum and hub of social-justice activity, the King Center is Martin Luther King, Jr.'s final resting place, a living memorial to this inspiring leader that is visited by tens of thousands each year. Dr. King's crypt is constructed of white Geogia marble (a timeless acknowledgement of his southern roots) and rests outside in the Freedom Plaza, surrounded by a beautiful five-tiered Reflecting Pool, a symbol of the life-giving nature of water. The tomb is inscribed with his words: "Free at last, Free at last, Thank God Almighty I'm Free at last."

An eternal flame burns in a small circular pavilion directly in front of the crypt, and the late Coretta Scott King is laid to rest here as well. Located at the end of Freedom Walkway is the Chapel of All Faiths, symbolizing the ecumenical nature of Dr. King's work and the universality of the basic tenets of the world's great religions.
9
Birth Home of Martin Luther King, Jr.

9) Birth Home of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Stoked in history and nostalgia, this Queen Anne–style house in the Sweet Auburn Historic District is a treasure and a delicate piece of history to visit. Built in 1895, it was bought 14 years later by King's maternal grandparents for $3,500. In 1926, when King's father married Alberta Williams, the couple – a Baptist minister and elementary-school music teacher – moved into the house, where King Jr. was born in 1929 (he lived here through the age of 12 before moving with his family a few blocks away).

Free half-hour guided tours are given on a continual basis, daily from 9am to 5pm, but to get tickets you will first have to book on the day at the National Park Service Visitor Center, at 450 Auburn Ave. On weekends, especially, arrive early as demand for tickets often exceeds supply.

Led by park rangers, the tours give an up close look at how MLK Jr. was raised, giving context to his work and the time he lived in. The first level includes the front porch, parlor, study, dining room, kitchen, laundry, bedroom and a bathroom, while the second level includes four bedrooms and a bathroom. The furnishings are all originals or period reproductions, and some personal items belonging to the family are on display. All in all, a must-see if you're in the area!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am–5pm

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