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JAUNTS: An Historical Journey to The King Center in Atlanta

One of the must-see locations of the modern Civil Rights Movement is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth home, the church where he delivered his first sermon, one of the South’s first desegregated firehouses and an elaborate visitor’s center making up the MLK Historic Park in Atlanta.

Established in 1968 by Mrs. Coretta Scott King, The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change (“The King Center”) has been a global destination, resource center and community institution for over a quarter century. Nearly a million people each year make pilgrimage to the National Historic Site to learn, be inspired and pay their respects to Dr. King’s legacy.

Both a traditional memorial and programmatic nonprofit, the King Center was envisioned by its founder to be “no dead monument, but a living memorial filled with all the vitality that was his, a center of human endeavor, committed to the causes for which he lived and died.” That vision was carried out through educational and community programs until Mrs. King’s retirement in the mid-1990s, and today it’s being revitalized.

“The National Park Service’s sites are the historical look into the man,” Dr. Bernice King, the youngest of King’s daughters and CEO of the Center said in an interview with Fox News. “The holiday and the work that we do at the King Center are about the now and going forward. And through all of the unconditional love and examples of forgiveness that we had around us, as children, we were able to weather the storm.”

Visitors to the King Center witness an amazing and innovative set of exhibits – both interactive and traditional. Great for all ages, the exhibits showcase the courageous actions of ordinary people and inspire viewers to see themselves walking in similar shoes.

“My sons and daughter loved the fact that they could walk among the life-sized wax marchers in one portion of the Center, as if a part of that history,” Maggie Jacobs, a D.C. resident who visited the King Center with her family recently told the Informer. “It makes them a part of something that they have only ever seen in books or film.”

Bars from the cell in which King penned The Letter from the Birmingham Jail are a portion of another exhibit that invites visitors to imagine being arrested to change history.

“It is quite a powerful experience and one that every American should undertake. There is so much about Dr. King that we still haven’t considered fully, and this is the perfect place to rethink his legacy,” Jacobs said.

Plans are under way for a state-of-the-art renovation to the King Center that will include the preservation and digitization one-of-a-kind archival material, the launch of a digital strategy and conference series, and the development of new programs and partnerships that further Dr. King’s work in sustainable, measurable ways worldwide.

Despite areas of the park being shuttered since Dec. 22, when the government shut down over border wall funding, The King Center, remained open through an $83,500 grant from the Delta Airlines Foundation and recreation fees collected by the National Park Service.

  • Shoes worn by civil rights marchers were collected and are showcased at the King Center. (Shantella Y. Sherman/The Washington Informer)
    Shoes worn by civil rights marchers were collected and are showcased at the King Center. (Shantella Y. Sherman/The Washington Informer)

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