Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Atlanta Roots

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in Atlanta on January 15, 1929. Inspired by the teachings of Gandhi in seminary school, he later took up the same pulpit as his father and grandfather before him at Ebenezer Baptist Church, and ultimately became the leader of the Civil Rights Movement. At age 35, he became the youngest person ever to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Cherish King’s memory and contributions as you tour the neighborhood where he grew up as well as places that honor his work and legacy.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park

The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park was established in Oct. 1980. Operated by the National Parks Service, the free experience is the centerpiece of Auburn Avenue, which ties together King’s home and work lives.

Visitors Center 
A true wealth of information, exhibits focus around specific areas of King’s work in the civil rights arena. Explore King’s teachings and approach through panels, newspaper accounts, audio-visual testimonies and larger-than-life displays. Of particular note is the funeral procession display. 450 Auburn Ave. NE, 404.331.5190

Dr. King's Birthplace
A two-story, Queen Anne-style home, painted in yellow with brown trim, the Martin Luther King, Jr. birth home still sits proudly in Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn neighborhood. It stands as a beacon for love, peace and the accomplishments of its most famous resident. King was born in the upstairs middle room on January 15, 1929, and lived there until 1941. After King’s assassination in 1968, it was restored as a historic museum. It is part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, and is a short walking distance to Ebenezer Baptist Church and The King Center. The birth home is open for free, ranger-led tours from 10 am-4 pm daily, but they fill up quickly, so sign up first thing when you venture inside the National Historical Park building. 

International World Peace Rose Garden
These roses’ names are particularly sweet. Directly outside the entrance to the visitor center, street-side, the blooms are accompanied by school childrens’ notes about what peace means to them.

Gandhi Statue
King refined his ideas about nonviolent resistance when he reflected on the teachings of Gandhi in seminary school. It’s fitting then, that the national historic site includes a statue of the Indian leader. After visiting the statue, stroll down the adjacent International Civil Rights Walk of Fame.

Ebenezer Baptist Church
Founded in 1886, this was the church where MLK, Jr. was baptized and later preached alongside his father, Martin Luther King, Sr. The original church is now a National Historic Landmark and is free and open to the public for tours (the congregation was moved to a church across the street). Tour the basement and second floor before moving into the church itself for contemplation of King’s many contributions. 

The King Center
Located across the street from the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site and next door to Ebenezer Baptist Church, The King Center is where both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King are entombed, side by side. Coretta Scott King spurred the center's creation after her husband’s death in 1968 to serve as a repository for MLK’s important papers, works and memories. Indeed, it has become the world’s most authoritative home to source materials on King and the American Civil Rights Movement. The archives include more than 200 oral history interviews with King’s friends and colleagues alone. Every year, the center hosts the “Salute to Greatness Awards Gala.” In 2020, it takes place on Jan. 18 at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta. 449 Auburn Ave. NE, 404.526.8900

Other Places of Interest

Apex Museum
Every month is Black History Month at this Auburn Avenue museum where you’ll get a thorough look at the black experience in the U.S.—particularly Atlanta. Among the exhibits is a replica of the Yates & Milton Drug Store, one of Atlanta’s first black-owned businesses. 135 Auburn Ave. NE, 404.523.2739 

Auburn Avenue Research Library
Part of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System, this 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. 101 Auburn Ave. NE, 404.613.4001

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. 220 Auburn Ave. NE, 404.827.9707 

Herndon Home Museum
Get inspired by the hard work of the prominent Herndon family at this dedication to Alonzo Herndon, founder of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company. Born into slavery, he died Atlanta’s wealthiest black citizen. The insurance building still stands on Auburn Avenue. 587 University Place NW, 404.581.9813

National Center for Civil and Human Rights
Learn how the American Civil Rights Movement paved the way for today’s global civil rights movements at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Explore the galleries that offer a multi-sensory approach to the American movement, followed by a human rights gallery that details past and ongoing struggles from around the world. The museum’s centerpiece is its tribute to King: a collection of handwritten manuscripts, documents and personal effects. 100 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd, Downtown, 678.999.8990 

Jennifer McKee
About the author

Jennifer is the Managing Editor of Morris Visitor Publications, where she has worked since 2005. She grew up in small...