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Known as the “cradle of the civil rights movement,” Atlanta was the center of the movement from 1940 to 1970 and is still home today to many important civil rights history sites. Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in the city and served as co-pastor with his father for one of the churches that was influential in the movement, Ebenezer Baptist Church. Other important figures to the movement called Atlanta home including former Ambassador Andrew Young and Congressman John Lewis. With a strong infrastructure of Black churches, businesses, social institutions and political organizations, the city was the perfect place to help the movement thrive.
Today many of Atlanta’s civil rights history sites are museums or monuments that pay homage to the leaders of the movement and the struggle for equality mounted by Black citizens during the mid-20th century. With the world taking note of MLK day last week to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. and his sacrifices which propelled the civil rights movement into real lasting change for all citizens in the US, this is the perfect time to review all of the important civil rights history sites throughout Atlanta. Here are 5 significant places you can visit in Atlanta to learn more about this crucial time in American history and pay homage to its leaders.
Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park
This park extends over 35 acres and consists of various landmarks, monuments and exhibits that honor the Rev. Dr. King. Some key parts of the park include the Martin Luther King, Jr. birth home where he lived until age 12, the International World Peace Rose Garden, Ebenezer Baptist Church where you can see where Dr. King preached with his father, and The King Center where you can pay your respects at the tomb of Dr. and Mrs. King and visit the Eternal Flame. Exploration of this park has been affected by the ongoing pandemic, but you can still see many of these civil rights history sites on location. Visit the website here for the most up-to-date information.
Atlanta University Center
Formed in 1929, the Atlanta University Center is the world’s largest consortia of African American private institutions of higher education. This Consortium consists of Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine and Spelman College. Each institution has great significance to the African American community, and the consortia were established initially to educate newly freed slaves after the Civil War through the Reconstruction era.
Clark Atlanta University hosts one of the largest collections of African American art. Morehouse College is the alma mater of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, Spike Lee and Samuel L. Jackson, among other distinguished alumni. Spelman College, a highly selective liberal arts college for women, has a renowned Museum of Fine Art that spotlights important contributions by a range of African American artists. Find out more at the Atlanta University Center’s website here.
National Center for Civil and Human Rights
Dedicated to both the human rights movement and the US civil rights movement’s achievements, this museum was established in 2014 and sits in downtown Atlanta near the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola. Within the museum visitors can see cultural exhibits within four immersive spaces. One of the most significant civil rights history sites is The Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection, featuring the personal papers and other items that belonged to Dr. King. Various temporary exhibits relating to global human rights struggles are featured at different times at the museum as well. Check the website for more information on visiting.
The APEX (African American Panoramic Experience) Museum seeks to depict the too-long untold legacy of African American history and culture through exhibits, artifacts and presentations. They seek to create a personal immersive experience that connects the museum’s exhibits and artifacts to visitors. These exhibits will connect you to a different time in history, seemingly very different from the world today. Some current exhibits include “Women in STEM,” “Africa the Untold Story” and “Sweet Auburn Pride.” Visit the APEX Museum website to learn more about current exhibits and visiting.
In the 1960s, the leaders of the civil rights movement would gather at Paschal’s Motor Hotel and Restaurant, established in 1947 on West Hunter Street in Atlanta. Strategists, including Rev. Dr. King and Andrew Young, would enjoy this classic soul food as they worked to bring about the events that would change the US forever. Now you can still get their secret recipe fried chicken and other Southern soul food specialties for breakfast, lunch or dinner seven days a week at their new location in the heart of historic Castleberry Hill.
Atlanta has a full rich history, and the civil rights movement is an important part of that. From visiting the locations that historic leaders frequented to spending time in museums devoted to telling the stories of the movement, there are many ways to explore this history in Atlanta. Visit these civil rights history sites the next time you’re in Atlanta to learn more about this important time in American history.
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