The Civil Rights movement owes a great debt to the actions of various martyrs, communities and political actions throughout the American South, but almost no aspect of the movement can be mentioned without including Atlanta and the city's most famous son, Martin Luther King Jr.
Who was Martin Luther King Jr?
Martin Luther King Jr, the quintessential figure of the Civil Rights movement and arguably America's greatest leader, was born and raised in Atlanta, the son of a preacher and choir leader. His lineage was significant not only because he followed his father to the pulpit of Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church, but also because his political speeches rang out with a preacher's inflections. King remains one of the most respected figures of the 20th century and is Atlanta's quintessential African American hero, his legacy emblazoned across the city's historic Sweet Auburn district, home to the Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site.
What to see at the Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site
The historic site commemorates the life, work and legacy of the Civil Rights leader, taking up several blocks. Stop by the excellent visitor center to get oriented with a map and brochure of area sites. Here you'll find a video theater showing short films, and the D.R.E.A.M Gallery, which hosts changing exhibits that elucidate the context – the segregation, systemic oppression and racial violence that inspired and fueled King's work.
The majority of the site is self-guided, with ranger-led tours for Dr King's Birth Home only (ask about availability at the visitor center upon arrival, and beware, they book up fast). The new Ebenezer Baptist Church is the home of the congregation once led by Dr Martin Luther King Jr. Stop by the World Peace Rose Garden, which borders the Peace Plaza. The King Center is Dr King's final resting place. A 1.5-mile landscaped trail leads from the site to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum.
Tickets and other practicalities
It's free to visit the Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site, however, all buildings are temporarily closed. Visitors may take a a self-guided tour of the campus.