Spots to Follow MLK's Life
From the red hills of Georgia to the mountain ranges of India, Martin Luther King Jr. traveled the world to preach a message of tolerance and nonviolence. His dream transformed a nation. A true son of the South, King dedicated his life to the civil rights struggle there. This is a list of Southern cities containing the sites of civil rights skirmishes, but today stand as gems of the new South.
At the Lincoln Memorial, King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech before more than 200,000 civil rights supporters during the March on Washington in 1963. Washington, DC -- the US Congress, in particular -- later honored King in 1983 by instituting a national holiday and proposing a national memorial in his name.
Montgomery became the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr.'s career in civil rights and passive demonstrations. Just 1 year after his arrival as minister of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, a seamstress named Rosa Parks staged a personal protest, launching the Montgomery Bus Boycott lead by Reverend King. At the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, take in a mural chronicling King's history in Montgomery.
The Civil Rights Memorial designed by Maya Lin, of Vietnam Memorial fame, with the inscribed names of 40 well-known and little-known civil rights martyrs. Water cascades over a granite wall, bringing the words "until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream" come to life.
In 1963, memorable characters like "Bull" Connor and the 4 little girls killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing made Birmingham center stage in the moral play called civil rights. Demonstrations there, led by Martin Luther King Jr., produced some of the most shocking scenes of the civil rights struggle, and led to King's "Letter from the Birmingham Jail." Visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute to see a replica of King's cell, and the new Kelly Ingram Park where demonstrators were once violently doused with water from firehoses.
After the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, Martin Luther King Jr. began to focus on poverty and economic rights. On April 4, 1968, King was in Memphis supporting black garbage workers when he was killed by a sniper's bullet at the Lorraine Motel. A powerful tribute to the civil rights struggle from slavery through King's death lives on at the motel, which has been converted into the National Civil Rights Museum.
See a different side of the city at these neighborhood wine bars, “secret” gardens, jazz clubs and after-hours museum parties.