Explore Atlanta

18 Must-See Civil Rights Sites and Attractions in Atlanta

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we pay tribute to the city's famous civil rights sights and attractions.

Atlanta has always been at the forefront of the civil rights movement, not the least of which because it is the home of Nobel Peace Prize winner Martin Luther King Jr. The story of the preacher, motivational speaker and activist begins and ends here, where he was born, raised and is now buried.

Just ahead of the annual observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, King's home, Ebenezer Baptist Church and King's burial site have all been upgraded from a national historic site to a national historic park. In honor of his legacy, add these meaningful civil rights stops to your next Atlanta itinerary. 

1) Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park

The historic park is home to a small interpretive museum chronicling MKL Jr., who lays entombed (along with wife Coretta Scott King) in a watery grave at the nearby King Center for Nonviolent Social Change. 404.331.6922, www.nps.gov/malu

MLK Jr.'s Gravesite
MLK Jr.'s Gravesite (©Spirit of America/Shutterstock)

2) Ebenezer Baptist Church

Founded in 1886, this was the church where MLK Jr. was baptized and later preached along side his father, Martin Luther King Sr. The church is the heart and soul of the Sweet Auburn neighborhood. 404.688.7300, www.historicebenezer.org

Ebenezer Baptist Church
Ebenezer Baptist Church (©L. Kragt Bakker/Shutterstock)

3) Big Bethel AME

Founded in 1847, this is the oldest predominantly African American church in Atlanta. In 1879, the Gate City Colored School, the first public school for African Americans, was founded in its basement. 404.827.9707, bigbethelame.org

4) Jimmy Carter Presidential Library & Museum

The center is home to countless documents form the Carter administration, thousands of photographs and an exact replica of the Oval Office, not to mention Carter’s Nobel Peace Prize. 404.420.5100. www.cartercenter.org

Jimmy Carter Library & Museum
Jimmy Carter Library & Museum (Courtesy Carter Center)

5) Auburn Avenue Research Library

This amazing resource, a special library of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System, is the first public library in the Southeast to offer specialized reference and archival collections dedicated to the study and research of African American culture and history. 404.730.4001, www.afpls.org

6) Oakland Cemetery

The historic cemetery is the final resting place of many African Americans who helped shaped the city’s history including mayors Maynard Jackson and Ivan Allen Jr.; Bishop Wesley John Gaines, founder of Morris Brown College; and Carrie Steele Logan, who established the first black orphanage in Atlanta. 404.688.2107, www.oaklandcemetery.com

Historic Oakland Cemetery
Historic Oakland Cemetery (Courtesy Oakland Cemetery)

7) Atlanta University Center Consortium

The world’s largest consortium of historically black colleges and universities including Spelman, Morehouse, Morris Brown and Clark Atlanta University. 404.523.5148, www.aucconsortium.org

8) International Civil Rights Walk of Fame

Stand in the footsteps of the nation’s civil rights icons including Rosa Parks, Reverend Jesse Jackson and President Jimmy Carter. The footprints of the interactive memorial were actually created using shoes contributed by inductees. 404.331.6922, www.nps.gov/malu

Civil Rights Walk of Fame
Civil Rights Walk of Fame (©Wally Gobetz/Flickr)

9) The Hammonds House

The one-time home of the late Otis T. Hammonds, a prominent Atlanta physician and patron of the arts, explores African American artists from the mid-20th century forward. 404.612.0500, www.hammondshouse.org

10) The APEX Museum

Hear stories of early African-American pioneers in Atlanta and Auburn Avenue and see a lifelike replica of the Yates & Milton Drugstore (one of Atlanta’s first black-owned businesses). 404.523.2739, www.apexmuseum.org

11) MLK Birth Home

Dr. King’s childhood home until the age of 12 was the home of his maternal grandparents. The National Park Service offers free, 30-minute tours daily; reservations are required. 404.331.6922, www.nps.gov/malu

MLK Birth home
MLK Birth Home (©Wally Gobetz/Flickr)

12) Atlanta Life Insurance Company

Started by former slave Alonzo Herndon, this 100-plus-year-old company—still located on Auburn Avenue—remains the number one African American insurer of group life benefits. 800.879.3279, www.atlantalifeins.com

13) Paschal’s Restaurant at Castleberry Hill

Civil Rights leaders and strategists came together over the Paschal brothers’ savory cooking at Paschal’s Motor Hotel and Restaurant. Atlanta’s movers and shakers still head there for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. 404.525.2023, www.paschalsatlanta.com

14) Sweet Auburn Curb Market

Originally a segregated one-stop shop, the market was developed in 1923 to help bring fresh produce and farm goods to urban dwellers. It offers produce, meals, pastries and local crafts. www.thecurbmarket.com

Sweet Auburn Curb Market
Sweet Auburn Curb Market (©Wally Gobetz/Flickr)

15) The Wren’s Nest

The home of Joel Chandler Harris, author of the Uncle Remus stories, is preserved with the original 1880s furniture, tile and fixtures. 404.753.7735, www.wrensnest.org

16) The Herndon Home Museum

The home of former slave Alonzo Herndon, founder of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company and at one time the city’s wealthiest African American, is open Tuesday and Thursday for tours. 404.581.9813, theherdonhome.org

17) The American Hotel Atlanta Downtown
Located Downtown, this hotel was recently renovated by Legacy Ventures to honor its history as the first area hotel to welcome African Americans. ​404.688.8600, doubletree3.hilton.com

18) Madame CJ Walker Beauty Shoppe and Museum

Born on a Louisiana plantation in 1867, this daughter of former slaves transformed herself into one of the 20th century’s most successful, self-made female African American entrepreneurs. This (very) small museums pays homage to her life and legacy. 404.518.2887, www.facebook.com/themadamemuseum