Friday, February 14, 2014

Martin Luther King Jr., Ebenezer Baptist Church and Atlanta

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born at 501 Auburn Avenue in what is called the Sweet Auburn neighborhood of Atlanta on January 15, 1929, in the home of his maternal grandfather, the Reverend A.D. Williams. Reverend Williams was the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church from 1893 until his death in 1931 and one of the founding members of the NAACP in Atlanta. Ebenezer Baptist Church moved to its current site in 1914 and the Auburn Avenue home is just one block east of it. In 1926 Reverend William's daughter married Martin Luther King, Sr. and they moved into the home with her parents while he went to school and then later preached in other Atlanta churches. When Reverend Williams died in 1931, Martin Luther King, Sr. replaced him as pastor of Ebenezer Baptist and continued in that capacity for the next 44 years, until 1975.  
The birth home of Martin Luther King, Jr. at 501 Auburn Avenue in Atlanta.
Martin Luther King, Jr. graduated from Morehouse College in Atlanta with a B.A. in Sociology in 1948 and then went to Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania from 1948 to 1951 when he graduated with a B. Div. degree. He then went on to Boston University where he received his Ph.D. in Theology in 1955. During his years in seminary and then following while in school in Boston, he often preached at Ebenezer Baptist. 
Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta where Martin Luther King, Jr, his father and maternal grandfather all were pastors. 
Judy in front of Ebenezer Baptist Church
Inside Ebenezer Baptist. 
The pulpit where Dr. King delivered many sermons.
One of the few stained glass windows in the church.
In October 1954, while still working on his doctorate, King, Jr. accepted a position as pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. It was in Montgomery that King got involved in the Civil Rights movement, organizing the bus boycotts in 1955.

In November 1959, King, Jr. moved back to Atlanta where he became co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist along with his father. He served in that position until his assassination in Memphis on April 4, 1968. 

King focused on the principles of nonviolent direct action. On August 28, 1963 he famously led the March on Washington for Jobs and freedom where he gave his "I Have a Dream" speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial to a crowd of 250,000. His efforts led to passage of the Civil Rights Act on July 2, 1964. He was present when the bill was signed by Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson and was given one of the signing pens. Later that year, on October 14th, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize
Pres. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with Dr. King right behind him.
After Dr. King's assassination, his funeral was held at Ebeneezer Baptist Church and his funeral procession passed the Georgia Capitol on Hunter Street on its way to Morehouse College. Georgia Governor Lester Maddox forbade the lowering of the U.S. flag in memorial and ordered state troopers to circle the Capitol. However, the Secretary of State, Ben Fortson, ignored the order and lowered the Capitol's flags anyway.
Dr. King's casket was carried in this wagon from Ebenezer Baptist to Morehouse College.
The Georgia capitol building in Atlanta
Inside the Georgia capitol building.
In 1974 Governor Jimmy Carter began an effort to get portraits of African Americans in the Capitol building and the portrait of Dr. King was the first one. It joined portraits of James E. Oglethorpe, founder of the Georgia colony who forbade slavery, and Robert E. Lee. In 1976, Hunter Street was renamed Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive and no. 1 is right across the street from the Capitol building.
Dr. King's portrait inside the capitol building.
Portrait of Governor Jimmy Carter who went on to become president of the U.S.
James E. Oglethorpe
Robert E. Lee
Right across the street from the Georgia capitol building.
Dr. King's remains, along with his wife Coretta's, are now contained in a tomb located between Ebenezer Baptist Church and his birth home in a large reflecting pool, somewhat reminiscent of the pool near the Lincoln Memorial where he delivered his famous speech. 
Reflecting pool and the tombs are located down toward the other end.
Looking at the reflecting pool from the other end. The tombs are in the foreground.
Tombs of Dr. King and his wife, Coretta.
We visited Dr. King's birth home with a group of African-American first graders from an Atlanta area school. It is now a park administered by the U.S. Park Service and the guide was an African-American park ranger. The highlight was hearing the park ranger talk to the children about how they could only effect change if they stuck together and the importance of them going to college and getting an education. Ebenezer Baptist Church is now a monument and a new and very beautiful Ebenezer Baptist Church has been built across the street.
The new Ebenezer Baptist Church

A Civil Rights Museum is now located to the right of the new Ebenezer Baptist Church.

1 comment:

  1. This is a really moving place, a good starting place in a quest to understand the Civil Rights Movement. It definitely gave me new respect for MLK.