Atlanta was a key city of the civil rights movement. Throughout Atlanta there are reminders of the buildings, churches, homes, restaurants and people who changed the world, plus a few who lived before them and set the stage.
Although a walk down Auburn Avenue is a great place to start, perhaps the best way to get a feel for the people, places and events is to take the Civil Rights Tour Atlanta, led by Tom Houck who once served as the personal driver for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Don't miss these seven top stops on the Civil Rights Tour Atlanta.
- The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site on Auburn Avenue is the final resting place of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK), and his wife, Coretta Scott King. The eternal flame anchors the center, which is a global destination and resource center for the nonviolent movement for social change. Visitors from all over the world come to pay their respects to MLK and the nonviolent movement. A few doors down is the iconic Ebenezer Baptist Church where MLK and his father preached. Also nearby is MLK's childhood home.
- South-View Cemetery is located 15 minutes from downtown Atlanta and was founded in 1886 by nine black businessmen so that persons of all races could have a dignified burial place. Today it is the final resting place for more than 80,000 African- Americans including Martin Luther King (Daddy King) and Benjamin Mays, who was a mentor to MLK and the long-time president of Morehouse College.
- Central United Methodist Church was founded in 1866 as Clark Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church and in 1968 became the home church of the Rev. Joseph Lowery, one of the founders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) who participated in several demonstrations including the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery.
- Herndon House was the home of Alonzo Herndon who started out as a barber and ended up founding the Atlanta Life Insurance Co. and becoming the city’s first black millionaire. He supported black entrepreneurship and many civic groups such as the National Negro Business League, orphanages, schools and churches. He died in 1927.
- West Hunter Street Baptist Church was founded in 1881, and one of its pastors, A. Franklin Fisher, was among the three pastors who collaborated to desegregate public transportation in Atlanta. Civil Rights leader Rev. Ralph David Abernathy served as the church’s pastor longer than any other pastor. The church served as the headquarters for many civil rights activities and organizers as they planned such initiatives as the Voter Education Project and the Freedom Summer of 1964.
- MLK’s last home was 234 Sunset Ave. on Atlanta's Westside. This modest home remains untouched after all these years. The King family still owns the home. The family car is still in the garage.
- The original home of the SCLC is on Auburn Avenue near the MLK National Historic Site. The SCLC traces its roots to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Under the leadership of MLK, the Rev. Andrew Young, Lowery and the Rev. Hosea Williams, the organization registered voters and assisted protest campaigns throughout the South. For a while, MLK had an office at the building. Evelyn Lowery, wife of Joseph Lowery, founded the SCLC Women, a sister organization of the civil rights organization, whose offices are adjacent to the former Auburn Avenue home of the SCLC.
- Bonus: The Center for Civil and Human Rights uses technology and interactive exhibits to educate and inspire visitors. Ranked as one of the Top 10 Atlanta Attractions by TripAdvisor, this crucial Civil Rights destination is not to be missed.
Journalist Mary Welch writes lifestyle and business stories for local and national publications.