In the picture above, the tomb of Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King, are in the white mausoleum there on the water. This was one of the most powerful gravesites I have ever visited. This setting spoke of peace, and unity, which were what the Kings stood for during their lives.
Dr. King was one of the most powerful men in U.S. history. His funeral was the largest non-state related funeral in U.S. history. I had a chance to visit the King Center, which is now part of the National Park Service, when I went through Atlanta. The building behind is his birth home but I couldn’t get in there as the tours were sold out for the entire day already.
Next door to the tomb is the old Ebenezer Baptist Church, which Dr. King was pastor of and which is kept in it’s original shape. A brand new modern church sits across the street. But this gives an indication of the humble roots from which King came from.
Across the street from the tomb is also a nice interactive center which gives a history of the civil rights movement as Dr. King saw it. It follows his life with video like the events of the Selma March and other events that brought Dr. King to the forefront. Of course, he is famous for speeches like his ‘I Have A Dream Speech’. Hearing them inside the Center, just as powerful today as then and made me wonder, why can’t we strive to live by those lofty goals he set for us all? What a better place this country and this world would be if we did. If you have never heard Dr. King’s speeches, I urge you to look them up on youtube.
The experience also made me recall a great PBS documentary on King’s life which I watched a few years ago. People today mistakenly think that everyone just automatically followed him. I recall a scene from that film where King spends hours, I think it was in Chicago, sitting with young people, trying to argue the points of non-violence, pleading for patience in order to reach their goal. Little about this man’s life was easy.
Outside the visitor center I was struck by two things. First was a statue of Ghandi who King credited as a major influence in his life.
The other was a really neat Civil Rights Walk of Fame in which those who were on the front lines of the effort left their shoe prints. Tough shoes to fill.
If you never have been to The King Center, I urge you to take a couple hours and stop to see it. I say this especially if you have kids because they need to be taught how much people sacrificed to get us to where we are today. In Dr. King’s case, it cost him his life.