Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park/Sweet Auburn, Atlanta Georgia.

On or trip to Georgia we decided to go to the MLK Jr historical park and learn of the life of Michael King Jr. What? you say? Who is Michael King?

A little-known fact is that Martin Luther King Jr was born in Atlanta Georgia as Michael King Jr. Why the name change.

King’s father was also a minister. As he built his church and became a powerful voice for the oppressed, he decided he needed a better name then Michael King. So, the father chose the name of one of his idols in the ministry Martin Luther, the founder of the Lutheran Church. The Kings, by the way were Baptists.

Along with changing his name father King also changed little Michael’s to Martin Luther Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr National Historical Park

In the picture above, the gray roofed building to the left is the modern Ebeneser Baptist Church, the current pastor is Senator Raphael Warnock.

We were free to walk outside but all the buildings were closed due to covid. So, our hosts for the week, which happened to be my brother and his wife, arranged a walking tour of the Sweet Auburn neighborhood where King grew up and did alot of his work.

Sweet Auburn

In the yellow brick building above King had his offices when he was the president of the Southern Chirstian Leadership Conference.

King was born in 1929 in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood of Atlanta Georgia to Michael King and Alberta Williams. Alberta Willams father was the pastor of the Ebeneser Baptist Church at the time. King always having fair grades enrolled in all men’s HBCU Morehouse College. He then attended Crozier Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania and got his Doctor of Theology from Boston University.

At Boston University King met Coreta Scott and they were wed in 1953. In 1957 King along with Rev Ralph Abernathy, Joesph Lowery and Fred Shuttlesworth formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to harness the power of the black churches across the south.

King got his beliefs from his father, but he would actually sneak away from the Ebeneser Baptist Church to go to the Wheat Street Baptist Church down the block. It was here from listening to Rev William Holmes Borders that King developed his unique speaking style and cadence.

Old Ebeneser Baptist Church
Wheat Street Baptist Church

Although King’s activities were throughout the south, he kept his offices above the Masonic Lodge on Auburn Street. In Atlanta he was relatively safe as it was one of the most racially tolerant and progressive towns of the south.

William B Hartsfield was the mayor from 1941-1961 and he always claimed that “Atlanta was the city too busy to hate”. He was known as a racial moderate and Atlanta was well ahead of other southern cities in tolerance. Hartsfield however did push for the city to annex several white suburbs to balance the power of the black vote in the city. This he accomplished in 1952 tripling the size of the city.

Maynard Jackson was Atlanta’s first Black mayor and today both men are remembered by the city naming its airport the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Mural under the highway bridge depicting what Sweet Auburn looked like before the highway was built
Downtown Atlanta from Sweet Auburn
Martin Luther King Jr Birthplace Home

We ended our tour at the reflecting pool and the tomb of Martin Luther King Jr and Coreta Scott King.

Reflecting pool
Tomb of Martin Luther King Jr.

Just past the tomb on the walls were the six principles of non-violence

What an enlightening experience this was.

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