My last day in Atlanta, I only had a partial day, because I needed to make my way back to the airport. I went to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park. I walked there, as it was only about a mile from my hotel, and was a really simple walk – with only a few turns.
I got there about 10 am and went to the Visitor’s Center. They explained that I wouldn’t be able to go inside the home where MLR, Jr. was born, because they had a big tour group at the site that day who had taken up all the tickets. Sad…
I checked out the Visitor’s Center and the exhibits. Martin Luther King, Jr. lived a fascinating life. The Visitor’s Center touched on all the major points; King following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and becoming a Reverend, his early Civil Rights work, his time in the Birmingham Jail, the bus boycott his work with the lunch counters and sit ins, and his work on the Poor People’s campaign and the sanitation worker’s strike at the end of his life.
There was an exhibit on his funeral service and the mule drawn cart that carried King’s body in his funeral procession. At the time, it was no longer common to have mule drawn carts, but they wanted to symbolism his commitment to working with the poor and disadvantaged. They ended up “borrowing” a cart and leaving a note about where it had gone. The owner was more than happy to have helped in the end.
There are also many of his speeches playing on TV screens, and I watched those for a bit. He really was a very charismatic orator; I can see why people were drawn to his message and his methods. I also walked the Freedom Walk, with lifelike statues depicting some of the men and women who marched with King for their own rights and freedoms. I take these freedoms for granted, both being born white and in a later time; it was powerful to reflect on the people who had to fight hard for the rights that I enjoy without effort.
I saw the outside of the house he was born in, which had belonged to his grandparents at the time (his parents were living there). It is a middle-class two story home for the 1920s, similar to so many of the day. I also visited Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King preached. I could imagine his booming voice delivering the sermon to his congregants. The church is actually fairly large. It did seem odd to me to have Park Rangers answering questions and directing people in this sacred space though. The church was busy enough, that it still felt like it must have an active congregation, although I don’t think it does.
Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife Coretta are entombed in a reflecting pool at the site; there is also an eternal flame burning. Before I visited, I didn’t know this and wasn’t expecting to see their graves. I would want a quieter place for my eternal rest, but I guess we all want something different.
After my visit, it was time to walk back to the hotel; the same mile long walk through the historic black neighborhood that King lived in. I got an unmemorable sandwich for lunch, picked up my bags at the hotel, and made my way to the airport on the subway.
My flight home was uneventful except for one laughable statement. The young woman seated in the window seat (I was in the aisle seat), commented to my neighbor that we had experienced little turbulence because the pilot had taken us on a southerly route in order to miss the Rocky Mountains. Hmmm… Atlanta to Seattle… I didn’t have the heart to tell her she needed to brush up on her geography…
And with that, another vacation concluded…