Atlanta is widely known as the spiritual center of the American civil rights movement. But even before leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Andrew Young became icons of the movement, African-Americans in the city were paving the way for the tumult and change to come.
Several of the city’s civil rights monuments can, not surprisingly, be found at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, but there are others, including a new statue of Dr. King.
Here are 10 of our favorite monuments. Some are familiar; others – not so well-known – are equally important to the city’s legacy.
Martin Luther King Jr. Statue (unveiled Aug. 28, 2017)
Georgia State Capitol
Artist: Martin Dawe
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is an icon of the American civil rights movement. An alumnus of both Atlanta’s Booker T. Washington High School and Morehouse College, Dr. King went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
Andrew Young Statue
(photo courtesy of Atlanta Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs)
Corner of Andrew Young International Boulevard and Spring Street
Artist: John Paul Harris
A civil rights activist and protégé of Dr. King, Andrew Young became mayor of Atlanta and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President Jimmy Carter.
John Wesley Dobbs Statue, “Through His Eyes”
Britney Nesbit, left, and Jessica Nelson, "Look Through His Eyes." (photo by Will Howcroft)
Auburn Avenue at Fort Street
Artist: Ralph Helmick
John Wesley Dobbs was a civic and political force in Atlanta and was known as the unofficial “mayor” of Atlanta’s famed Auburn Avenue.
Charles Lincoln Harper Statue
Ashby Garden Park at Ashby Circle NW and Mayson Turner Road
Artist: Ed Dwight
Charles Lincoln Harper was the first principal of Atlanta’s Booker T. Washington High School, the city’s first post-6th grade public school for African-Americans.
“Expelled Because of Their Color”
(photo by Georgia Governor's office)
Georgia State Capitol
Artist: John Thomas Riddle Jr.
This monument pays tribute to African-American legislators in Georgia who were expelled from the Georgia General Assembly during Reconstruction because they were black. Led by Henry McNeal Turner, the legislators successfully lobbied the federal government to reseat them. (New Georgia Encyclopedia). The monument was recently moved to a new location at the capitol to make room for the just-unveiled Martin Luther King Jr. statue.
Benjamin Mays Statue
Artist: Ed Dwight
A mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Benjamin Mays was president of Morehouse College from 1940 to 1967. As the first African-American president of the Atlanta Board of Education, he presided over desegregation of Atlanta Public Schools.
Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Mural
(photo by Jenni Gartman, AtlantaPhotos.com)
450 Auburn Ave.
Artist: Louis Delsarte
This large mural pays tribute to civil rights icons including Rosa Parks, Bobby Kennedy, Malcolm X and Emmett Till, to name a few. Also depicted is Birmingham segregationist Bull Connor, the public official known for ordering police to turn dogs and fire hoses on civil rights demonstrators. The mural has been taken down while improvements are made in the area. It will be reinstalled at a different location.
“Lifting the Veil of Ignorance”
(photo courtesy Booker T. Washington High School)
Booker T. Washington High School
Artist: Charles Keck
This statue, according to the Booker T. Washington Society, portrays Washington lifting the veil of ignorance from his people, symbolized by a terrified slave. The slave holds a book representing education and crouches on a plow and anvil, representing tools of agriculture and industry. The Atlanta statue is a duplicate of the original, which stands on the grounds of Tuskegee University and the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site.
Homage To King
(Benjamin A. Pete photo)
Intersection of Ponce de Leon Avenue and Freedom Parkway
Artist: Xavier Campaney Medina
This steel sculpture welcomes visitors to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site.
Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
Artist: Patrick Morelli
The statue depicts an African-American man performing an ancient African ritual of holding his newborn up toward the heavens.
For more information about Atlanta’s civil rights legacy, check here. And remember to visit Atlanta’s Center for Civil and Human Rights, where you can sit at a mock lunch counter wearing headphones that deliver angry insults in an exhibit that evokes the lunch counter sit-ins of the 1960s. For more Atlanta civil rights history, consider the new tour just introduced by Bicycle Tours of Atlanta, "Atlanta's Journey for Civil Rights."
Journalist Carol Carter writes and edits for Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau.