Martin Luther King, Jr.

Do you need a refresher on the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.? Read this biography from the National Park Service D.R.E.A.M. gallery (below or click this link):

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929. Dr. King grew up as the son of a leading minister in Atlanta, Georgia, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr. His mother, Mrs. Alberta Williams King, assisted her husband in the care of his congregation. Because of their efforts and interest in behalf of the congregation and the community, his parents were known as ‘Momma’ and ‘Daddy’ King. His community, centered on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta also influenced him. By the 1930s when he was a child, it was the center of business and social life in Black Atlanta and the major center for the Black Southeast. The community was so successful that nationwide, it was known as “Sweet Auburn”. The residential neighborhoods of the community, and especially the one where Dr. King was born were known for the diversity of the backgrounds of the residents. Though all Black, the neighborhoods had business people, laborers, college-educated, uneducated, rich, poor and successful all living close to each other.

As a boy, Dr. King experienced many of the same things most children do. He helped and played games with his older sister Christine and his younger brother A. D. He played baseball on vacant lots and rode his bicycle in the streets. He went to school at David T. Howard Elementary, three blocks from his home. He attended the Butler Street YMCA down Auburn Avenue. When the family moved to the house on Boulevard, he was attending Booker T. Washington High School, working a newspaper route, attending his first dances, and planning to attend college. But, Dr. King’s primary memories of his childhood were of the sting of segregation.

In 1941 Daddy King moved the family to a brick home. Here King continued his development and education until he graduated from Morehouse College in 1948. Dr. King still lived in this home when he attended College here in Atlanta, starting at the age of fifteen. After graduation he left for graduate work at Crozer Theological Seminary, then in Chester, Pennsylvania (now Colgate Rochester divinity School/Bexley Hall/Crozer Theological Seminary in Rochester, New York), and at Boston University. He became pastor at The Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery Alabama in 1954 and served there until 1960. From 1960 until 1968 he was co-pastor, with his father, of Ebenezer Baptist Church on Auburn Avenue, where his grandfather, Rev. A. D. Williams had also been pastor.

Starting with the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955-1956, Dr. King was also the foremost leader of the Civil Rights Movement. His dedication to the tactics of non-violent resistance led to successful campaigns in Montgomery, AL, Birmingham, AL, and Selma,AL as well as encouraging African-Americans throughout the South to campaign for their own freedom. After 1965, He expanded his work to include actions in the North, opposition to the War in Vietnam, and planning for a campaign to aid poor people.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968 by James Earl Ray.

Visit the birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr. birthplace (NPS site) in Atlanta, GA.

Alabama #1: Kelly Ingram Park

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Sweet Home Alabama, where the skies are so blue.

As some vigilant readers may have noticed, Wednesdays tend to be travel days here at Preservation in Pink. This past weekend, Vinny and I visited a friend in Birmingham, Alabama.  Our friend is a wonderful host and catered to our interests, which included a lot of preservation related sites. Thus, Birmingham posts will be a series. This is Alabama post #1, the Kelly Ingram Park in downtown Birmingham. Alabama posts will appear on Wednesdays for the next few weeks.

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16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL

The Civil Rights District in downtown Birmingham, Alabama is a six block area recognizing important events of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Among these sites are the 16th Street Baptist Church and Kelly Ingram Park. The 16th Street Baptist Church, a National Historic Landmark, is the site of a September 1963 bombing that killed four young African American girls. The church had become the site of civil rights demonstrations and after the bombing, the United States and other nations around the world openly condemned segregation. See the HABS documentation of the 16th Street Baptist Church here from the Library of Congress – photographs and historical research and measured drawings.

Closer view of the 16th Street Baptist Church

The brick construction and the neon sign of 16th Street Church.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

On the opposite corner of 16th Street Church is Kelly Ingram Park, formerly known as West Park, where police and fireman attacked civil rights demonstrators in May 1963. Men, women, and children were hosed with high pressure fire hoses, beaten with policemen’s night sticks, and arrested. One man attacked by a police dog. Men, women, and children as young as six years old were arrested and jailed. Images of these tragic incidents were broadcasted all over the world. Seen in the above photograph is a statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the park.

Kelly Ingram Park memorials

Today, the four acre is park is home to the Freedom Walk, which leads visitors in a circle around the park through sculptures of the police dog attack, the fire hoses, and a jail cell. The park was named Kelly Ingram Park in 1932 for Osmond Kelly Ingram, a sailor in the U.S. Navy who died in World War I and received the Medal of Honor posthumously. In 1992 the park was renovated and rededicated with the Civil Rights Institute.  Visitors may take an audio tour or their own self guided tour to enjoy the peacefulness of the park today. Seen below is the police dog attack sculpture in the park.

The police dog attack

The sculptures are powerful images, a contrast to the beauty and unity of the park today. It is across the street from the Civil Rights Institute and worth a visit, as a tribute to those who fought long and hard and suffered in order to earn equal rights in the United States.  See the National Register of Historic Places Travel Itineary for additional historic sites of the Civil Rights movement.

The fountain at the park

The park fountains.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Take a moment to think today. Think about Martin Luther King, Jr., not only because it is a national holiday named for him, but because we should all take time to appreciate the men and women who have worked so hard for the freedoms that we all enjoy day after day.King accomplished much more than we know him for, which is probably the famous “I Have a Dream” speech.  However, there is a reason that is his most famous speech.  Listen to it or read the text, here. Or read King’s acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN is home to the National Civil Rights Museum, though it is also well known for the location where King was assassinated by James Earl Ray on April 4, 1968.  King was a frequent visitor to the Lorraine Motel and his room, 306, is preserved today as it was in 1968. Read this article, “Where Time Stands Still” from the Star Tribune of Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN for an interesting account of the small effects that bring the museum to life. There is an interesting balance between re-creating history, interpreting history, and displaying history.

And if you do get to visit the Lorraine Motel, send a report to Preservation in Pink. We’d love to hear.