Thursday, September 18, 2014

Martin Luther King Memorial

Atlanta's skyline from the MLK MARTA station
We had nearly a full day in Atlanta so decided to revisit the MLK Memorial Park. To get there we took MARTA, the light rail Atlanta built for the 1996 Olympics. It’s a great system, very easy to use and a quick ride with only one transfer. MARTA consists of two north-south lines and two east-west lines that intersect in one spot. Both north-south lines begin at the airport making it very convenient for travelers. More and more cities are building these systems making getting to and from the airport much easier than it used to be – and cheaper than the taxi alternative.
Some find MARTA very comfortable
We walked about five blocks from the MARTA station to the memorial. The visitor center is small enough to go through in less than an hour including the 28 minute movie. They do a good job of highlighting his career and the elements of his philosophy without overdramatizing or getting maudlin over his death. One small section designed for kids discusses ways to get involved. The display area is divided into small ‘rooms’ to highlight different points in the movement. Quotes and pictures line the walls along with a television running his speeches or statements by those who were with him.
Martin's funeral procession
Part of an outside mural - really a timeline of Martin's life
The only display that doesn't work for me is the walk. Several generic people are displayed walking up a street with a hard-to-read sign at the end discussing how we each need to make our walk. I think most people appreciate the art, but it is hard to get the point.  
The Walk
The memorial is located on Auburn Street where MLK grew up and was one of the richest black neighborhoods in the South. After riots in 1906, the area was taken over by blacks who developed it with a thriving business district. MLK grew up surrounded by successful African-Americans so he saw a world that could be even as he also saw the segregation around him. Like other such districts like Beale Street in Memphis, today, the district is much less than it was with only a couple of business left. It is still a neighborhood and perhaps it will grow again with the building of a trolley line that will connect the area with downtown.

The King house
An upper middle class neighborhood
Shotgun duplexes - Called shotgun because the hallway ran the length of the house so you could fire a gun through the front door and out the back without hitting anything. Each duplex had four rooms. 

In the area, we also walked by the house MLK grew up in and the fire station where he spend some of his time as a child. Even though the fire department was segregated until the1960s, the firemen welcomed the neighborhood children who, as boys would be, were excited by the trucks and the work.
What boy wouldn't have fun hanging out here?
A memorial pond highlights the graves of Martin and Coretta, an eternal flame, and a Peace rose developed in her name.

Our last stop was to visit Ebenezer Baptist Church where Martin followed his father and grandfather into the ministry. Now just a memorial, it has been restored to its condition when Martin was minister there. The congregation has grown and built a new sanctuary across the street.

Tomorrow we will be in Johannesburg and tour the Apartheid Museum so this was a fitting beginning to our sojourn in South Africa.  Although apartheid was abhorrent, Americans cannot chastise the South Africans when you consider our history of the treatment of African Americans. 

No comments:

Post a Comment