Looking for a way to spend your day out this weekend, while honoring a Civil Rights icon? This year, residents of the U.S. might consider a visit to a few of the many locations where the activist and preacher Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired thousands, making an indelible mark on American public life.
One of the most prominent AMERICAN Civil rights leaders, King was instrumental in ensuring the voting rights and the desegregation policies for the African-American people in the entire country. Given his commitment to pacificism and refusing to fight violence with violence, he became a wider symbol of peaceful protest, a reminder of the change that individuals can make in an unjust society.
Martin Luther King Jr Day is also a moment to remember the many thousands of other students, preachers, and activists who risked their safety to ensure a safe and better life for African-Americans.
Rep. John Lewis, who is still a congressman in Georgia, walked in with the King march in Selma and suffered a fractured skull in enforcement of the law fell. Medgar Evers, who worked to overturn segregation at the University of Mississippi, was shot to death in his home in 1963. Viola Liuzzo, a woman who traveled to Alabama in 1965 to help with the boycotts and marches, was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan and a few weeks shy of her 30th birthday.
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“King was just a representative of what a mass movement,” David J. Garrow, author of a Pulitzer prize-winning King biography, told Travel + Leisure. “He would not have wanted a memorial for the movement that singled him represent multiple people.”
Travellers can start at the beginning by taking a visit to the two-story family house of the King in Atlanta, Georgia. The house at 501 Auburn Ave-recently reopened after a repair in order to welcome visitors on the anniversary of the birthday of the King on Monday.
Visitors to King’s home you can also take a short walk to the nearby Ebenezer Baptist Church, where his father was a preacher, and where the King himself would be ordained as a minister in 1948.
After lunch in one of Atlanta’s many great restaurants, admirers of King’s life pay respects to his grave and monument.
Washington, D. C.
The recently opened National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) is a must-see. The extensive collection traces the cultural and historical contributions of Afro-American people from the birth of the country until the day of today. Artifacts are Harriet Tubman’s prayer book and shawl, Chuck Berry’s Cadillac, and the casket of Emmett Till—a 14-year-old boy whose gruesome murder helped spark the Civil Rights movement.
While there is a part of the museum is dedicated to the Civil Rights movement, the King’s artifacts are conspicuously missing. His former lawyer, Clarence Jones accuses the King of the children, Bernice, Martin III and Dexter, who have a history of demanding exorbitant fees for the use and display of their father’s items, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Visitors to the museum you can find more information about King’s legacy through other exhibits, including a documentary with the title “August 28,” by award-winning director Ava Duvernay that delves into King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, among other historical events that occurred on the same day.
The museum is located on the National Mall, where King delivered his “I Have a Dream Speech” in 1963.
“Now is the time to real the promises of democracy,” he told thousands of supporters extending in the direction of the Washington Monument. “Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksand of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.”
King was shot and killed in the night of April 4, 1968, standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. An escaped prisoner shot and killed King, when he stayed in the city to organize around the issue of economic equality sanitary facilities for workers, and he was pronounced dead on arrival at the local hospital. He was 39 years old.
Since then, a complex of buildings including the motel into the National Civil Rights Museum. Visitors can see the room where King stayed the night of his death and discover a range of exhibits related to the 1960s Civil Rights movement and the history of American slavery.
Selma and Montgomery, Alabama
Upon hearing of Rosa Parks’ refusal to move to the back of the bus, the King went to Montgomery, Alabama, where he helped lead the bus boycotts and other demonstrations, aimed at the dismantling of the systematic segregation of African-Americans in the public space
In 1965, King and hundreds of others tried to march from Selma to Montgomery in a demonstration for voting rights. State and local authorities met the protesters with violent opposition on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, severely injuring dozens of people in the graphics that was shown on the nightly news, an event that became known as Bloody Sunday.
The king and his followers would eventually complete their march, with the protection of the national guardsmnen.
While both Montgomery and Selma have a limited number of well-preserved historical sites, both of which are part of the Alabama Civil Rights museum trail and visitors can make their own pilgrimage to the Edmund Pettis Bridge.
This southern city is also a focal point of King’s organizing, and it contains a number of monuments, but also a series of historical plaques in the city that allow visitors to create their own tour.
“Birmingham is by far my strongest recommendation,” King historian David J. Garrow said. “The current Birmingham is also a really nice destination city.”
Historic sites include 16th street Baptist church, where Ku Klux Klan members bomb during the services in 1963, killing four young girls. The nearby Gaston Motel served as a makeshift headquarters for the King during his time in Birmingham, and was also the site of a bombing.
King spent several days in the Birmingham Jail for organizing a protest, and it was during this time that he wrote his influential “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” an open letter which was one of the most famous pieces of his era.
“We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom,” he wrote. “Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with the fate of America.”