At the March on Washington in 1963. Photography: Francis Miller/The Life Picture Collection via Getty Images
This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, walk in the footsteps of the civil rights hero by visiting these places where Dr. King lived, worked, and formed his legacy.
Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park, Atlanta
Where better to celebrate Dr. King’s birth than the place where he was actually born? King’s childhood home, at 501 Auburn Avenue, in Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn Historic District, became a National Historic Site in 1980. Most of the landmark buildings at the 35-acre park are currently closed—including the original Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King was both baptized and ordained, and The King Center, which houses his and Coretta Scott King’s crypt—but visitors can still walk the grounds and peruse an outdoor exhibit on the 40-year history of the park. nps.gov/malu
Morehouse College, Atlanta
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King enrolled at this Historically Black College in 1944, at just 15 years old, and graduated with a BA in sociology in 1948. The campus installed a bronze sculpture of him near the entrance to the Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel. morehouse.edu
Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church Montgomery, Alabama
From 1954 to 1960, King served as pastor at this church, a brick building that was completed in 1889 just one block from the Alabama state capitol. In the church basement, he coordinated the 13-month Montgomery Bus Boycott, which led to the desegregation of the city’s buses. While the church is currently closed, plan a future stop to see the pulpit from which King gave his sermons and a mural depicting his civil rights efforts. dexterkingmemorial.org
“Letter from Birmingham Jail” Historical Marker Birmingham, Alabama
Everett Collection Historical/Alamy Stock Photo
In April 1963, King was arrested during the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s campaign of nonviolent protests against segregation in Birmingham. In his cell, he penned the famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” to defend the sit-ins and marches, and in 2013 this historical marker was erected outside the old city jail to mark the 50th anniversary of the letter’s writing.
Lincoln Memorial Washington, D.C.
The August 28, 1963, March on Washington concluded at the National Mall, where King gave perhaps his finest address, the “I Have a Dream” speech, at the Lincoln Memorial. That phrase is engraved into the spot where King gave the speech, on a landing 18 steps below the sculpture of Honest Abe. The official Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, meanwhile, is in West Potomac Park, just a short walk away. nps.gov/linc
Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church Selma, Alabama
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This 1908 Romanesque Revival church served as a meeting place for the SCLC and was the starting point of the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery marches, which were portrayed in the 2014 film Selma and helped lead to the passage of the Voting Rights Act.
A bust of King marked with the words “I Had a Dream” stands in front of the church. The Edmund Pettus Bridge, where police attacked peaceful, unarmed marchers on March 7, 1965, in what became known as Bloody Sunday, is just a 15-minute walk away.
National Civil Rights Museum Memphis
Courtesy of the National Civil Rights Museum
On April 4, 1968, King was assassinated by James Earl Ray while standing on the balcony of Memphis’s Lorraine Motel. The building is now a part of the must-visit National Civil Rights Museum, which is currently open to visitors.
After walking through the galleries, guests can look into Room 306—which has been recreated to look much as it did when King spent his final hours there—and consider how all of us can keep working to achieve his dream. civilrightsmuseum.or