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Places Where You Can Walk in Martin Luther King Jr.'s Footsteps

Follow his historic civil rights journey across the U.S.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. giving his I Have a Dream speech

Francis Miller/Getty Images

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. addresses demonstrators Aug. 28, 1963, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

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.

map of the U.S. showing where to Martin Luther King Jr. walked

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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.

Thousands of funeral marchers gathered outside Ebenezer Baptist Church prepare to walk five miles to Morehouse College where another service for the slain Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., will be held.

BETTMANN ARCHIVE VIA GETTY IMAGES

Thousands of funeral marchers gathered April 9, 1968, outside Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta after services for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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.

Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, in Atlanta, Georgia

RAYMOND BOYD, MICHAEL OCHS ARCHIVES VIA GETTY IMAGES

In 2011, the National Park Service completed the second phase of restoration to Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church building.

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

Site: First African Baptist Church

Location: 405 Telfair St. A small city of about 16,000 residents, Dublin is about halfway between Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia.

Stubbs Leith building in Dublin, GA

COURTESY OF VISIT DUBLIN GA

The cornices and arch windows are gone from the corner of West Jackson and South Jefferson streets in downtown Dublin, Georgia, but would have been what Martin Luther King Jr. saw in his April 1944 visit.

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."

First Baptist Church - Dublin, GA

COURTESY OF VISIT DUBLIN GA

First African Baptist Church in Dublin, Georgia, looks much the same today as when Martin Luther King Jr. won an oratorical contest there on April 17, 1944.

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

Site: Crozer Theological Seminary

Location: 1 Seminary Ave. Upland is just north of the Philadelphia suburb of Chester.

Crozer Theological Seminary, Circa 1917

Courtesy of Archives & Special Collections, McNairy Library, Millersville University

This postcard of Crozer Theological Seminary in Upland, Pennsylvania, was printed around 1910. Its Old Main building looked largely the same when Martin Luther King was a divinity student there from 1948 to 1951.

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.

people standing outside of Crozer Theological Seminary

COURTESY OF CROZER-KEYSTONE HEALTH SYSTEM

Crozer Theological Seminary’s buildings are now on the Crozer-Chester Medical Center campus. In 2019, community leaders installed a historical marker to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.’s time there.

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

Site: Dexter Avenue Baptist Church

Location: 454 Dexter Ave. The church is about one block west of the Alabama State Capitol.

The church has become a historic site since Martin Luther King, Jr. was a pastor there from 1954 to 1960.

CORBIS HISTORICAL ARCHIVES VIA GETTY IMAGES

As pastor of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, Martin Luther King Jr. helped organize the December 1955 to December 1956 bus boycott in the church basement.

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.

Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama

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Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama — where Martin Luther King Jr. was pastor — was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1974.

Now: The church offers hourly tours of both the sanctuary and parsonage 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays to Fridays and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. Worship services are at 10 a.m. Sundays.


5. Manhattan's Harlem neighborhood

Site: Blumstein's Department Store

Location: 230 W. 125th St. The building is across the street on the same block as the famous Apollo Theater.

General view looking east on 125th Street in Harlem, New York

BETTMANN ARCHIVE VIA GETTY IMAGES

Martin Luther King Jr. was stabbed Sept. 20, 1958, in the book department at Blumstein’s Department Store, shown Jan. 1, 1958, in New York’s Harlem neighborhood.

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."

 230 West 125th Street the once site of Blumstein's Dept Store on January 13, 2019 in New York City. The site of Blumstein's Dept Store was a flash point in the early Civil Rights Movement

DAVID 'DEE' DELGADO

The Blumstein Department Store building in New York’s Harlem neighborhood housed a college for osteopathic doctors with small businesses at street level on Jan. 13, 2020.

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.

Coretta Scott King the wife of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., with fellow activist Fred Shuttlesworth outside Birmingham City Jail, following her husband's arrest for his part in the Birmingham campaign, Alabama, April 1963

RAYMOND BOYD, MICHAEL OCHS ARCHIVES VIA GETTY IMAGES

Coretta Scott King, wife of Martin Luther King Jr., has an interview in April 1963 outside the Birmingham City Jail in Alabama where her husband was detained for protesting without a permit.

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.

The former City Administration building off of 6th Avenue South shows signs of its age with broken windows and time taking a toll on the three story structure located along 6th Avenue South in Birmingham, Alabama

Frank Couch/THE BIRMINGHAM NEWS

The old Birmingham City Jail where Martin Luther King wrote his famous ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail,’ shown Feb. 8, 2013, in Birmingham, Alabama, is now in disrepair and not used.

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.

BETTMANN ARCHIVE VIA GETTY IMAGES

More than 250,000 demonstrators gathered Aug. 28, 1963, in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., to hear Martin Luther King Jr. during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

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.

Etched into the stone on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, a marker of the exact spot Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood to deliver the

PICTURE ALLIANCE VIA GETTY IMAGES

The spot where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his 1963 ‘I Have a Dream’ speech is etched on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

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

Site: Monson Motor Lodge Restaurant

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.

Demonstrators pray during a civil rights protest in the parking lot of the Monson Motor Lodge in Saint Augustine, Florida

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Civil rights demonstrators pray June 18, 1964, in the parking lot of Monson Motor Lodge Restaurant in St. Augustine, Florida. Martin Luther King Jr. had been arrested there a week earlier.

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.

steps of the  Monson Motor Lodge in downtown St. Augustine

Alamy Stock Photo

Monson Motor Lodge Restaurant in St. Augustine, Florida where Martin Luther King Jr. was arrested June 11, 1964, was torn down, but the steps where he stood, shown Jan. 13, 2020, are preserved.

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.

Coretta Scott King speaks at ceremonies in Memphis, May 2, 1968, to kickoff the Poor People's Campaign planned by her husband

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Coretta Scott King, widow of Martin Luther King Jr., speaks May 2, 1968, on the Lorraine Motel balcony where he was killed in Memphis Tennessee.

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.

An exterior view of the Lorraine Motel during the National Civil Rights Museum Tour on January 20, 2019 at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee

JOE MURPHY/GETTY IMAGES

The Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, shown Jan. 20, 2019, is now part of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee.

Now: The expanded museum includes a nearby building with interactive exhibits and historic collections. The Mason Temple, which was built in 1941 and was the largest black-owned church building at the time, now serves as headquarters of the Church of God in Christ.

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