Martin Luther King Jr Day is celebrated the third Monday in January, the closest Monday to MLK’s birthday on January 15. A great place to commemorate the holiday is at the Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site in Atlanta.
Oh my gosh. Am I so old that I can remember events that have since resulted in national park units? That’s the way I felt visiting the Martin Luther King Jr. site in Atlanta a couple of years ago.
The March on Washington (1963), the shooting of Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis (1968), the creation of the federal holiday honoring his life (1981)—all these events are explained at the site. The highlight is definitely the tour of King’s birth home on Auburn Ave.
I was lucky to get in on a tour given by Ranger John Jenkins, a retired paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne. Ranger Jenkins gives a lively, personal tour. He reminds visitors that before desegregation African-Americans couldn’t stay in a motel or eat in most restaurants. Travelers had to find willing black folks like the King family to rent them a room.
The house was unusual as it had central heating, an innovation at the time. One of young Dr. King’s jobs was to feed coal into the furnace. Ranger Jenkins points out that if the young man didn’t do his chores, there was no time-out in those days. Instead, the tour visitors respond with one voice, “He got a whupping.”
We had lined up for the tour before nine a.m. and were glad we had. Free tickets are available for the Birth Home tour at the visitor center on a first-come, first-served basis only on the day of the tour. Since only fifteen persons can go through the house at one time, tours fill up quickly.
Sorry, no photos of the inside of the house since you can’t take pictures. The house is still owned by the King family.
This tableau, above, is everywhere. It portrays the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965, which includes a white man who walked the whole march on crutches.
If you go to the MLK site, plan to spend the day. There’s so much to see and understand.