In the Footsteps Of Dr. King

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. served as pastor of Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. served as pastor of Atlanta's Ebenezer Baptist Church. (P1 Photo By Associated Press; Above Photo By Joe Cooke/national Park Service/atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau)
Sunday, January 15, 2006

Seventy-seven years ago today, Martin Luther King Jr. was born. Here are destinations marked by King's work and redolent with his memory.

ATLANTA: No city has stronger ties to King than Atlanta, where the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site (450 Auburn Ave., 404-331-5190, ) includes the two-story Queen Anne Victorian where King was born, as well as the Heritage Sanctuary of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King, his father and grandfather served as pastors.

King's crypt, elevated above a reflecting pool, also sits within the site, as do other exhibits and historic buildings. To see the birth home, take a free ranger-led tour; get tickets at the visitors center upon arrival.

Across town, quotations adorn the front of the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel and the base of the King statue in front of it at Morehouse College (830 Westview Dr. SW, ), where King earned his BA in sociology. The campus is private, so call ahead to arrange a visit (404-681-2800, Ext. 2608).

MONTGOMERY, ALA.: The Rosa Parks Library and Museum (251 Montgomery St., 334-241-8615, ; $5.50) commemorates Parks's 1955 refusal to give up her bus seat and the ensuing Montgomery bus boycott, when King's leadership thrust him into the national spotlight. King's desk, office and pulpit are on display at Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church (454 Dexter Ave., 334-263-3970, ; $5), where King was pastor. His restored parsonage (309 S. Jackson St., 334-261-3270; $5), bombed during the boycott, is also open to the public.

BIRMINGHAM: See the door from the cell where King wrote "Letter From Birmingham Jail" at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (520 16th St. N., 866-328-9696, ; $9), whose galleries chronicle civil rights history. Sculptures across the street in Kelly Ingram Park depict lunging police dogs and other instances of police brutality against protesters, who were led by King and local activists.

The same intersection is the site of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church (1530 Sixth Ave. N., 205-251-9402; $3), a civil rights hub where King spoke several times before the infamous 1963 bombing that killed four girls.

SELMA, ALA.: Now a sign-marked national historic trail, the Selma-to-Montgomery march route (334-727-6390, ) began at King's Selma headquarters, Brown Chapel AME Church (410 Martin Luther King Jr. St., 334-874-7897). A bust of King sits in front of the church.

The National Voting Rights Museum and Institute (1012 Water Ave., 334-418-0800; $6) sits at the foot of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, site of the 1965 "Bloody Sunday" attack by Alabama law officers on peaceful marchers. (King was not present but led a ceremonial march to the bridge two days later.) The museum's exhibits include displays on King.

MEMPHIS: The Lorraine Motel , site of King's April 4, 1968, assassination, now houses part of the National Civil Rights Museum (450 Mulberry St., 901-521-9699, ; $12). An exhibit on key moments in civil rights history ends at King's room, re-created to look as it did on his final evening. Across the street, the museum includes the boardinghouse where James Earl Ray allegedly fired the fatal shot from a bathroom -- preserved as it looked that day.

BOSTON: King received his PhD in systematic theology from Boston University, where the Mugar Memorial Library has an exhibit on King's career -- including correspondence with people including Rosa Parks and Jackie Robinson -- in the Martin Luther King Reading Room (771 Commonwealth Ave., 617-353-2700, ).

WASHINGTON: Organizers hope to break ground this year on an MLK memorial ( ) on the Mall, at the northeast corner of the Tidal Basin, across from the Jefferson Memorial. For now, head to the Lincoln Memorial, where an inscription marks where King stood during his "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library (901 G St. NW, 202-727-0321, ) also has a mural depicting King's life and impact.

RESOURCES: Several federal agencies teamed to produce "We Shall Overcome," a list of 49 historic places (plus the Selma-to-Montgomery route) associated with the civil rights movement. Info: . Another helpful reference is Jim Carrier's 2004 book "A Traveler's Guide to the Civil Rights Movement" (Harcourt, $14).

-- Ben Brazil

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