5 Places to Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr

Want your kids to know MLK better? These 5 places celebrate the man and his legacy all year long.

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5 Places to Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr
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5 Places to Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr

Huge crowds are expected in Washington DC this weekend for the50th anniversary celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historicMarch on Washington and his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Can’t make it to the capital for the big party? Considerplanning a visit to one of these five destinations that celebratethe man and his legacy all year long.

Atlanta, Georgia

No city embraces MLK’s life and legacy more fully than Atlanta,where he was born and buried. The 22-acre MartinLuther King, Jr. National Historic Site includes King’s boyhoodhome on Auburn Avenue, the “I Have a Dream” World Peace RoseGarden, the Baptist church where King and his father pastored, andDr. King’s grave. The site is administered by the National ParkService. Don’t miss: Kids ages 9 to 12 can earn a free JuniorRanger badge after completing an activity booklet and taking apledge to live by Dr. King’s Six Principles of Nonviolence.

 

(MORE: Viewa family trip journal: Atlanta with ‘tweens and teens)

 

Montgomery, Alabama

From 1954 to 1960, Dr. King was a pastor at the Dexter AvenueBaptist Church (454 Dexter Ave.) in downtown Montgomery, Alabama,and became well known as an advocate for non-violent resistance toracial inequality and oppression. It was in this church that Kingand other leaders gathered to organize the Montgomery Bus Boycottin 1955, after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up herseat to a white passenger. Don’t miss: Tours of the church can bearranged in advance. The parsonage features an interpretive centerand reflective garden.

Just around the corner at the Civil Rights Memorial (400Washington Ave.), you can pay your respects to those who died inthe struggles and touch their engraved names. The sleek blackgranite memorial was designed by Maya Lin, who created the VietnamVeterans Memorial in Washington DC.

The 54-mile Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail is ascenic byway that traces the route of three voting rights march ledby Dr. King in March of 1965. After the public viewed broadcasts ofnon-violent marchers being beaten and tear-gassed by police, thethird and final march was joined by thousands of supporters fromacross the United States and ended on the steps of the AlabamaState Capitol (600 Dexter Ave.), just down the street in Montgomeryfrom the church where Dr. King had pastored a decade earlier. Laterthat year, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of1965, which extended the right to vote to African Americans.Don’t miss: Free self-guided and guided tours ofthe capitol building are available.

Washington DC

Any time of year, it’s free to visit the NationalMall, where Dr. King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech inAugust, 1963, and to reflect at the nearby MartinLuther King, Jr. Memorial in West Potomac Park on the cherrytree-dotted Tidal Basin. Don’t miss: Free60-minute ranger talks are available, and kids can pick up a JuniorRanger booklet to find out more about the memorials on the mall andtidal basin.

 

(MORE: Finda parent-approved, kid-friendly hotel in Washington DC.)

 

Birmingham, Alabama

From the 16th Street Baptist Church (1530 6th Ave. North) in Birmingham,Dr. King helped organize the boycotts and protests across thestreet in Kelly Ingram Park, formerly West Park, a central stagingground for civil rights protests. In 1963, news footage of policeusing fire hoses and dogs to turn back young black protestorshelped turn public opinion and eventually ensured the passage ofthe Civil Rights Act of 1964. In September 1964, four AfricanAmerican girls were killed when the church was bombed by the KuKlux Klan. On the fringe of the park, the Birmingham Civil RightsInstitute (520 16th St. North) chronicles the tragedies andtriumphs of the civil rights movement. Don’t miss:Church tours are available twice a day, Tuesday to Friday, and byappointment on Saturdays. Stroll through the park to view thestatue of Dr. King and the series of sculptures depicting keyevents that took place there.

Memphis, Tennessee

King was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis at the Lorraine Motel,now the site of the NationalCivil Rights Museum, which presents a timeline of the seminalevents of the African-American civil rights struggle. An$11-million expansion in 2002 made way for the “Exploring theLegacy” exhibit housed in the building where James Earl Rayallegedly fired the shot that killed Dr. King. Don’tmiss: For a short time, you can tour the balcony where Dr.King last stood and view Room 306, where he stayed. Tours of thebalcony will not be available once museum renovations are completedin 2014.

SuzanneRowan Kelleher contributed this to MiniTime.com.

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