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Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
450 Auburn Ave. NE
Atlanta, GA 30312
404-331-5190
website

The historic site is a cluster of buildings erected next to the new Ebeneezer Baptist church, across the street from the historic original, and down the street from the nice Victorian where Dr. King was born in 1929.

The first building holds excellent exhibitions on MLK and his historic context. There was a room containing the mule cart that carried Dr. King’s casket during his funeral procession, plus all the dry official documents that were issued upon his death “by gunshot wound to thorax.” Such a simple stark phrase to sum up not just the death of a man but what seemed at the time to be the death of a dream, of justice itself.

The exhibit also had letters sent by children to Dr. King’s children after his death. One in particular was a drawing of three kids, all sad faced and crying, and underneath it read, in tipply child’s handwriting, “Sorry about your daddy.”

Across the street is another visitor’s center which contains Dr. King’s Nobel Peace Prize, plus other mementoes and artifacts of his life, including his minister robes, his toiletries, a case of cufflinks, and a very, very well thumbed Bible. There are also copies of books he read on Gandhi, and a room devoted to that other messenger of peaceful protest and justice.

Out front is Dr. King’s tomb, a shining white sarcophagus set in a placid lake of blue water. There is nothing we can say about that.

Except; that tomb, and the toppled statue pictured here may be the iconic starting images for what we think is emerging as the theme of this trip; endurance and resilience. Anything from minor adversity to catastrophe can topple and break plans and lives, and it seems impossible to piece it together again afterward. And yet; Sherman marched through Atlanta and left it in ashes and here it is, alive. Dr. King is tragically, senselessly murdered, and there we were, on the morning of the night when a black man was about to accept the nomination as the Democratic candidate for President of the United States. It was forty years later, and that’s much too long, but it happened, what surely on April 4, 1968 seemed utterly hopeless.

We didn’t know that the day we visited was also the 45th anniversary of the “I Have a Dream” speech, but it was appropriate; we went through exhibits on what brave people did in the face of crushing odds, and later that night a part of their dream was realized. We honor their legacy when we endure despite our own stumbling blocks, no matter how destructive they are. We don’t want to insert ourselves into history, but being there that day, Obama, 45th anniversary, our own journeys, felt serendipitous, and moved us profoundly.

And remember the compassion of the letters from the children; if one generation fails, perhaps the next one can succeed.


Risen.


Reminiscent of another photo from Plucky 1.


Nobel Peace Prize.


Where it all begin.


Ebeneezer Baptist Church.

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