En español | Martin Luther King Jr., especially as an adult, was not a man who stayed in one place too long.
An Atlanta teenager and student at historically black Morehouse College, he spent two summers working in tobacco fields near Simsbury, Connecticut — his first taste of a life without Jim Crow laws. After earning a bachelor's degree from Morehouse, he moved to Upland, Pennsylvania, for his bachelor of divinity degree and later earned his doctorate at Boston University.
The success of the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott, which King helped lead, propelled the Baptist minister throughout the United States and to at least 20 countries around the world in his quest to end racial discrimination.
King's admirers have many opportunities to follow the civil rights leader's journeys in the United States. Here are nine spots where you can start your trek.
1. Atlanta, Georgia
Site: Ebenezer Baptist Church
Location: 407 Auburn Ave. NE. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, are buried behind the King Center in the same block; one block east is the home where he was born.
Then: On May 3, 1936, King was baptized after the church's two-week annual revival. He was ordained there on Feb. 25, 1948, upon the recommendation of his father, and served as associate pastor.
On Feb. 7, 1960, after more than five years at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, he returned to Ebenezer as co-pastor with his father so he could be closer to the Atlanta headquarters of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which he cofounded. He remained co-pastor until he was killed.
Now: The original Ebenezer Baptist Church building is part of the 38-acre Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park. The National Park Service completed a two-part, 10-year restoration of the church in 2011.
In 1999, the congregation of Ebenezer Baptist Church constructed a new building across the street. The church has more than 6,000 members.
2. Dublin, Georgia
Location: 405 Telfair St. A small city of about 16,000 residents, Dublin is about halfway between Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia.
Then: On April 17, 1944, at the Colored Elks Clubs of Georgia state convention, King, then 15, gave his first public speech, called "The Negro and the Constitution." He participated in an oratorical essay contest that the Elks had sponsored — and won.
But on the bus trip back home that night, the driver ordered the teen and his female teacher to give up their seats to white passengers. “So we stood up in the aisle for the 90 miles to Atlanta,” he told Alex Haley in a 1965 Playboy interview. “That night will never leave my memory. It was the angriest I have ever been in my life."
Now: The church, which was founded in 1867 and is the oldest black church in Dublin, has services at 8 and 10:45 a.m. each Sunday as well as weekly 7 p.m. Bible study. Each year on the second Sunday of April, the church and community sponsor a speech contest in the tradition of the Elks’ competition.
Across the street from the church is the city's Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument Park, where you can hear King's first speech and see Atlanta artist Corey Barksdale's colorful mural and Freedom Ascension sculpture. Both sites are part of a walking tour with more than 70 stops in Dublin.
3. Upland, Pennsylvania
Location: 1 Seminary Ave. Upland is just north of the Philadelphia suburb of Chester.
Then: On May 8, 1951, after a three-year course of study, King graduated as class president and valedictorian with a bachelor of divinity degree from the American Baptist seminary. When he started in fall 1948, he was one of only 11 black students at the school.
At the seminary, King honed his belief in the “social gospel,” the importance of addressing economic insecurity, joblessness and substandard housing, and was introduced to the concept of pacifism.
Now: In 1970, the school merged with Colgate Rochester Divinity School and moved to Rochester, New York. Its original buildings, including the Old Main building that is on the National Register of Historic Places, today remain part of the western section of the campus of Crozer-Chester Medical Center. In 2019, a historic marker was erected in front of the Old Main building, which is on the west side of Seminary Avenue.
4. Montgomery, Alabama
Location: 454 Dexter Ave. The church is about one block west of the Alabama State Capitol.
Then: On May 2, 1954, the church became the first and only place where King was a full-time pastor; he served there until 1959, when he left for Ebenezer Baptist in Atlanta to be co-pastor with his father. From its basement, he helped start the Montgomery Improvement Association that organized the 13-month Montgomery bus boycott.
The name of the church, designated a national historic landmark in 1974, was changed in 1978 to Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church to honor its 20th pastor.
5. Manhattan's Harlem neighborhood
Location: 230 W. 125th St. The building is across the street on the same block as the famous Apollo Theater.
Then: On Sept. 20, 1958, Izola Curry, a black woman attending a book signing for King's first book, stabbed him in the chest with a letter opener. He was rushed to Harlem Hospital, where a team of doctors successfully removed the 7-inch steel blade. Within a month, Curry was committed to a hospital for the criminally insane. King later said the tip of the blade was so close to his main artery, “If I had sneezed, I would have died."
Now: In 1976, the Blumstein family sold the department store building that was built in 1923. Various retailers, including electronics, jewelry, shoe and wig stores, are located at street level. King's attacker died on March 7, 2015, living until age 98 in a Queens nursing home after spending more than 50 years in various institutions.
6. Birmingham, Alabama
Site: Birmingham City Jail
Location: 425 Sixth Ave. S. The jail is southwest of railroad tracks that limit access from downtown and west of Interstate 65 from the University of Alabama, Birmingham.
Then: On April 12, 1963, King and fellow Baptist ministers Ralph Abernathy and Fred Shuttlesworth were arrested in Birmingham for protesting without a permit. During the eight days King was incarcerated, he wrote the correspondence that would become his “Letter From Birmingham Jail" in the margins of a Birmingham News story smuggled in to him, on scraps of paper and eventually on legal pads that his lawyers brought him.
King was detained in Birmingham a second time, Oct. 30, 1967, on contempt charges for failing to obtain a city parade permit. He spent three days in the Jefferson County jail downtown.
Now: The building that was the Birmingham City jail is part of the Birmingham Police Department Detention Division. The historic jail building is unused and in disrepair but does have a historical marker that was unveiled April 16, 2013.
Jefferson County commissioners recently voted to preserve what remains of the old county jail on what is now the seventh floor of the Jefferson County Courthouse at 716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. N. (The road had been known as 21st Street North when King was jailed).
County officials say they intend to create a memorial and interpretive display. Two cells, an isolation chamber and some equipment remain there.
7. Washington, D.C.
Site: Lincoln Memorial
Location: The monument is the westernmost memorial on the National Mall and within walking distance of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial at the Tidal Basin.
Then: On Aug. 28, 1963, King delivered his "I Have a Dream” speech to more than a quarter million civil rights supporters during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. King was not the only speaker at the peaceful protest, which was organized in less than three months.
Leading the national anthem was Marian Anderson, the acclaimed singer turned away from Constitution Hall in 1939 because the Daughters of the American Revolution had restricted the venue to white performers. Myrlie Evers, whose husband, Medgar, had been killed two months before in Mississippi, led a tribute to Negro women freedom fighters. And white leaders, including the president of the United Autoworkers union, made remarks.
Now: In 2003, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of King's address, engravers etched an inscription in the granite steps to mark the place where King stood to give his speech. It is located 18 steps from the top landing of the Lincoln Memorial.
On Aug. 28, 2011, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was dedicated. The half mile between the memorials takes a little more than 10 minutes to walk.
8. St. Augustine, Florida
Location: 32 Avenida Menendez. It's a block and a half north of the city's scenic drawbridge, the Bridge of Lions, across the parking lot from the present hotel's lobby.
Then: On June 11, 1964, less than a month before Congress passed the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, King and 17 others were arrested after demanding service at the whites-only restaurant. King announced the day before that he would go to jail to fight the discrimination.
With television cameras on as they stood on the front steps, King politely asked the restaurant's owner, James Brock, to admit him and his party of eight. Brock refused: “I would like to invite my many friends throughout the country to come to Monson's. We expect to remain segregated."
As more activists protested, white men and youths hurled bricks at state troopers and broke through the police line to punch and kick several of the demonstrators, violence that also had taken place several nights previously. A week later, protesters jumped into the whites-only pool at the motel; Brock dumped two gallons of hydrochloric acid in the water in an attempt to force them out.
Several historians credit the protests — and crowd reaction — at St. Augustine for smoothing passage of the Civil Rights Act. On June 19, 1964, one day after the pool “swim-in,” the U.S. Senate passed the legislation in a 73-27 vote, breaking a filibuster that had lasted 60 working days. The House approved changes made in the Senate version, and President Lyndon Johnson signed it into law on July 2, 1964.
"I'm not so sure the Civil Rights Act would have been passed had [there] not been a St. Augustine,” one of the protesters, J.T. Johnson, told StoryCorps 50 years later.
Now: The motel and restaurant were demolished in 2003 after a local developer decided he wanted more luxe lodging than the motor hotel built in 1960. The Hilton St. Augustine Historic Bayfront Hotel was constructed on the site, and the steps where King was arrested are preserved and marked with a plaque.
9. Memphis, Tennessee
Site: Lorraine Motel
Location: 450 Mulberry St. The location is about six blocks, close to a half mile, south of Beale Street, birthplace of the blues.
Then: At about 6 p.m. on April 4, 1968, King was assassinated while standing outside the second-floor room of a motel that marketed itself as upscale lodging for black clientele during the Jim Crow era. He had arrived in Memphis the day before to prepare for a march on behalf of striking city sanitation workers, giving his “I've Been to the Mountaintop” speech to an overflowing crowd at Bishop Charles Mason Temple, a Pentecostal church at 938 Mason St.
The Lorraine Motel, which after King was killed had preserved Room 306 where he was staying and adjoining Room 307, eventually became single-room occupancy housing for low-income individuals. After closing for good in 1988, it was restored and opened in 1991 as the National Civil Rights Museum.