Though Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968, the National Historic Site honoring him wasn't established until 1980. In addition to his boyhood home, the site includes the Sweet Auburn neighborhood, and the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he was baptized, where he preached, and where his funeral service was held.
Dr. King received his BA in Sociology from Morehouse College (in Atlanta), his Bachelor of Divinity from Crozer Theological Seminary (Chester, PA) and his PhD from Boston University. He was born in 1929 and lived all his life in a country where the majority of states enforced racial segregation through so-called Jim Crow laws, from coast to coast and border to border. As a minister, he followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, both of whom preached at the Ebenezer Baptist Church here.
The Birth Home of Dr. King may be visited only with a park ranger leading you on a tour, and the tours are filled on a first-come, first-served basis with no advance reservations. Sign up for the tour at the Visitor Center upon arrival in the park. Each tour is limited to 15 people and lasts 30 minutes. Spots fill up fast on weekends and on holidays.
You can also take a free tour (called Encounter History Presentations) of the entire site, led by a park ranger. On the 30-minute tour, you will visit and/or learn about the Ebenezer Baptist Church (currently closed for restoration, to reopen in 2011), the Sweet Auburn neighborhood, the King Center, the graves of Dr. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, the Birth Home, and the historic Fire Station No. 6. The tour may involve the use of a GPS Ranger hand-held device, which can be rented for $9.95 from the bookstore inside the Fire Station No. 6, on the corner of Auburn Avenue and Boulevard.
Don't miss the visitor center, the "I Have a Dream" World Peace Rose Garden, or the King Center itself, opened in 1969 by his widow, Coretta Scott King. Fully titled the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, the current building opened in 1981. The rose garden is the centerpiece of the Peace Plaza, located between the visitor center and Auburn Avenue. Note also the memorial statue to Mohandas K. Gandhi here, as well as the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame (2004), recognizing other courageous pioneers in the fight for human equality.
Inside the Visitor Center, look over two exhibits: "Children of Courage," which covers the history of the Civil Rights movement, and "Courage to Lead," which follows the parallel paths of Dr. King and the Civil Rights movement. You can also walk a Freedom Road in the center and view video programs in the center's theater.
There are usually events surrounding the anniversary of Dr. King's birth in January (Martin Luther King Jr. Day), during Black History Month (February) and the anniversary of his April 4th assassination in 1968.
Outside the King Center, look for the APEX Museum (African American Panoramic Experience), about one mile away; the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African-American Culture & History, also a mile away; and the Atlanta Preservation Center, about two miles away.
Hours and Fees
The site is open from 9am to 5pm daily (except Christmas Day, Thanksgiving Day and New Year's Day), closing one hour later in summer. Admission and parking are free.
There were 650,343 visitors to the site in 2009, the NPS says. The highest figure was in 1992, when 3,252,140 visited.
Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site (tel. 404/331-6922; www.nps.gov/malu)