9 Key Stops on a Civil Rights Tour of Atlanta

Brush up on your civil rights movement history right here in Atlanta.
  • Lunch counter exhibit at the Center for Civil and Human Rights
    Lunch counter exhibit at the Center for Civil and Human Rights
  • The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site includes a museum that chronicles the civil rights movement.
    The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site includes a museum that chronicles the civil rights movement.
  • Home where Martin Luther King Jr. was born
    Home where Martin Luther King Jr. was born
  • Crypts of King and his wife, Coretta, at the King Center
    Crypts of King and his wife, Coretta, at the King Center
  • The APEX Museum where every month is Black History Month.
    The APEX Museum where every month is Black History Month.
It’s nearly impossible to be in Atlanta and not feel the ghosts of the civil rights movement -- and for good reason. Atlanta is the home of the movement and many of the key events were either planned or held here. The city is where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached and where the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) calls home. It is where African-American leaders met with white Atlanta business and civic leaders to dream about and help create a new integrated world. If you want to feel closer to the events and people that made history during the civil rights movement, use our list as a guide and explore the rich history of Atlanta and it's notable residents.

The civil rights movement is all around you in Atlanta, but here are nine must-see spots:

•    The Center for Civil and Human Rights is a new attraction that connects the American civil rights movement to today’s global human rights movements, including human rights struggles from women’s rights to immigration to child labor to LGBT issues. Permanent exhibits include a timeline about the civil rights movement, King’s personal papers and a lunch counter similar to the ones where black students staged sit-ins demanding to be served food alongside whites.

•    The King Center (The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change) is a global destination for those wanting to learn, be inspired and pay their respects to King’s legacy. View the artifacts and memorabilia of the movement and spend a moment by King’s crypt.

•    Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site consists of several buildings surrounding King’s boyhood home in the historic Sweet Auburn district. The 35-acre site includes a visitors’ center, a museum that chronicles the American civil rights movement, a firehouse that contains a gift shop and an exhibit on the desegregation of the Atlanta Fire Department.

•    Ebenezer Baptist Church, located on Auburn Avenue, is where King delivered his first sermon in 1947 and served as an associate minister and later co-pastor with his father.

•    The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, whose headquarters are on Auburn Avenue, was a hotbed of activity that involved several civil rights leaders including King, Ralph David Abernathy and Joseph Lowery. The SCLC was responsible for several historic civil rights activities including the March on Washington, the Selma Voting Rights Campaign and the March to Montgomery.

•    MLK Birth Home is located at 501 Auburn Ave., about a block from the Ebenezer Baptist Church and the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. Built in 1895, the King family lived in this house until 1941. Guided tours of the home are available and slots are filled on a first-come, first-served basis with the National Park Service out of the historic site.

•    Paschal’s Restaurant features some of the best Southern cooking in Atlanta, but it also became a meeting place for some of the most notable entertainers and where white and black leaders sat for a meal and planned for integration.

•    International Civil Rights Walk of Fame is part of the MLK National Historic Site on Auburn Avenue. The walk highlights men and women, black and white, who were “brave warriors of justice.” Among the inductees are Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., Herman J. Russell, Ralph McGill, Thurgood Marshall, Evelyn Lowery and Marian Wright Edelman.

•    The APEX Museum is “where every month is Black History Month.” The museum has permanent and visiting exhibits that will intrigue young and old. .

If you don’t want to do it yourself, there are several guided tours including a new one, Civil Rights Tour, by Tom Houck, who was once Martin Luther King, Jr.’s personal driver.

Mary Welch is a veteran journalist who writes about travel, lifestyle and business. Her work has appeared in publications such as the Atlanta Journal Constitution, The Fulton County Daily Report and Family Vacation Critic.

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