February is Black History Month, and a great way to help commemorate this annual event is to pay a visit to Georgia, the heart of the South. The landmarks of Atlanta are rich in history and heritage, offering a unique look at the African-American culture of yesterday and today.
The King Center
Located in the heart of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, the King Center is a living memorial dedicated to the legacy of Dr. King's teachings.
The King Center, established in 1968 by Coretta Scott King, is dedicated to the advancement of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., leader of America's greatest nonviolent movement for justice, equality and peace.
More than 650,000 visitors from all over the world are drawn annually to the King Center to pay homage and view unique exhibits illustrating his life and teachings.
The center features informative and inspiring films, photographs, and books that celebrate Dr. King's ideas of justice and social change. Every year the center helps sponsor a series of celebratory events for The King Holiday, including the annual commemorative service and the annual salute to greatness awards dinner.
Sweet Auburn Historic District
The Sweet Auburn Historic District is at the center of Atlanta's African-American history. Restrictive residential laws that were common in the southern states in the early 20th century resulted in this historical mile and a half stretch of Auburn avenue is now home to many black-owned business, churches, and social organizations.
The community thrived during the civil rights movement and exemplified African-American success in the South through social strife and political upheavals.
The Sweet Auburn district contains a long list of important landmarks: Martin Luther King's birthplace, the former headquarters of the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference); the nation's first African-American radio station, WERC; and The Atlanta Daily Word, the nation's first black-owned daily newspaper.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Birth Home Museum
On January 15, 1929, a son was born to the Reverend and Mrs. Martin Luther King at 501 Auburn Avenue, in Atlanta, Georgia. It was in these surroundings of home, church and neighborhood that young "ML" experienced his childhood.
Here, the boy who would someday be a resounding voice for African-Americans learned about family and love, segregation in the days of "Jim Crow" laws, diligence, and tolerance. The walls of this Victorian style home nurtured the child who would become the most influential Civil Rights leader of our time.
Preserved and operated by the National Park Service, visitors to Dr. King's birth home experience his life through engaging films and interactive exhibits.
It was here that young M.L. learned about Christian values and beliefs, and he returned to the church in 1960 as The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He preached his first sermon here among the inspiring stained glass, and served for eight years as co-pastor with his father.
Dr. King's Grave Site
Centered among peaceful reflecting pool waters to the west of The King Center, Dr. King's grave-site is an emotional memorial to the great civil rights leader. Visitors from all over the world make the pilgrimage to Dr. King's tomb to pay their respects. The tomb and its eternal flame were dedicated to his memory in 1977.
King-Carter Peace Walk
Unveiled in 2003, this outdoor exhibition pays tribute to two of Georgia's Nobel Peace Prize laureates, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and former President Jimmy Carter.
The Carter-King Peace walk is located within Atlanta's Freedom Park, and connects the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site with The Carter Center. This beautiful trail symbolizes the peace these two great leaders passionately pursued in their fight for human and civil rights worldwide.
Atlanta University Center
Atlanta University Center (AUC) is the nation's largest union of historically black colleges and universities. Historic buildings, inspiring African-American art, and distinguished faculty and students fill the campuses of this district.
A prominent presence during the Civil Rights Movement, the AUC's academic institutions include Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine, Spelman College, Morris Brown College, and the Interdenominational Theological Center.
Atlanta History Center
In 1926, a group of civic-minded Atlanta citizens, led by prominent attorney Walter McElreath, formed the Atlanta Historical Society and began to meet in each other's homes to study Aftrican-American history in Atlanta.
Together they collected early manuscripts and photos and published research bulletins to arouse an interest in history in the citizens and friends. Their efforts resulted in The Atlanta History Center, a primary source of Atlanta's regional, and national history that offers a unique look at the capital of the New South's heritage.
Located on 33 acres in the heart of Buckhead district, it includes one of the southeast's largest history museums and is filled with informative exhibits and interactive tours. Each year in February, the Atlanta History Center offers an array of special programs on the Civil Rights Movement and African-American history in celebration of Black History Month.
Many cities across the nation have their own commemorative sites and informational landmarks that provide insights into the history of the civil rights struggle and signify the life of fellow Americans during this period.
-By Linda Orlando
-By Linda Orlando