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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. and the world

spinner image Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. giving his I Have a Dream speech
Martin Luther King Jr. addresses demonstrators Aug. 28, 1963, from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Francis Miller/Getty Images

Martin Luther King Jr., especially as an adult, was not a person who stayed in one place too long.

As 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 earned his doctorate at Boston University.

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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. Here are 11 spots where you can start your trek.

spinner image map of the U.S. showing where to Martin Luther King Jr. walked
AARP / Getty

1. Atlanta

spinner image 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.
Thousands of funeral marchers gather April 9, 1968, outside Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta after services for Martin Luther King Jr.
BETTMANN ARCHIVE VIA GETTY IMAGES

Site: Ebenezer Baptist Church

Location: 407 Auburn Ave. N.E. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, are buried behind the King Center on the same block; a block farther east is the home where he was born, which is closed for renovation.

Then: On May 3, 1936, King was baptized after the church’s two-week annual revival. He was ordained there 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 (SCLC), 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 building across the street. The church has more than 6,000 members.

spinner image the first african baptist church in dublin georgia
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.
Visit Dublin GA

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.

Then: On April 17, 1944, at the Colored Elks Clubs of Georgia state convention, King, then 15, gave his first public speech, titled “The Negro and the Constitution.” He participated in an oratorical essay contest that the Elks sponsored — and he won.

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 10:45 a.m. each Sunday. 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.

spinner image Crozer Theological Seminary, Circa 1917
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 Jr. was a divinity student there from 1948 to 1951.
Courtesy of Archives & Special Collections, McNairy Library, Millersville University

3. Upland, Pennsylvania

Site: Crozer Theological Seminary

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 what he called 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, remain part of the western section of the campus of Crozer-Chester Medical Center. In 2019, a historical marker was erected in front of the Old Main building, which is on the west side of Seminary Avenue.

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spinner image left boston university in nineteen sixty four where martin luther king jr received his doctorate right the embrace a sculpture in boston honoring king and coretta scott king
A 1964 aerial view of Boston University, where Martin Luther King Jr. received his doctorate in 1955. The city of Boston unveiled the bronze sculpture "The Embrace" to honor King and Coretta Scott King in 2023.
Photo by Joe Runci/The Boston Globe via Getty Images / mpi34/MediaPunch /IPX

4. Boston

Site: Boston University School of Theology

Location: 745 Commonwealth Ave. The School of Theology is on Boston University’s Charles River Campus. The Mugar Memorial Library, where King’s papers are held, is adjacent to the School of Theology. On the fifth floor of the library, you’ll find the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center. A reading room is on the third floor of the library.

Then: King moved to Boston in 1951 to pursue his doctorate at Boston University’s School of Theology. In 1952, King met Coretta Scott, who was in Boston to study at the New England Conservatory of Music. They wed in 1953. While King worked on his doctorate, he helped organize the Dialectical Society, a group for African American theology students to discuss philosophical ideas and their application to the oppression of African Americans in the United States. King earned his doctorate in June 1955.

King returned to Boston in 1965 to speak to Massachusetts state legislators about housing and employment discrimination. He led a civil rights march from Roxbury to Boston Common.

Now: The boarding house King lived in at 397 Massachusetts Ave. was where the Dialectical Society used to meet. The building has been converted into private apartments, but visitors can view a plaque on the building’s exterior.

Boston University’s School of Theology continues to hold private classes for enrolled students, as well as public community events. The King papers collection, which he donated to Boston University in 1964, preserves more than 83,000 items and is one of the largest collections held at Boston University’s archival research center. The exhibit is on the fifth floor of Mugar Memorial Library and is open to the public Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. In 2023, the city of Boston unveiled a bronze abstract figure called The Embrace, modeled from a picture of King hugging his wife, which stands as a symbol of equity and justice. The Embrace is in 1965 Freedom Plaza, part of downtown’s Boston Common park.

spinner image Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama
Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama — where Martin Luther King Jr. was pastor — was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1974.
dbimages / Alamy Stock Photo

5. Montgomery, Alabama

Site: Dexter Avenue Baptist Church

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.

Now: The church offers parsonage tours on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tours of the church are by appointment only. Virtual tours are available. Worship services are at 10:30 a.m. Sundays.

spinner image General view looking east on 125th Street in Harlem, New York
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.
BETTMANN ARCHIVE VIA GETTY IMAGES

6. Manhattan’s Harlem neighborhood

Site: Blumstein department store

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 removed the 7-inch steel blade. Within a month, Curry was committed to a hospital for the criminally insane. King 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 clothing, jewelry and wig stores, are at street level. King’s attacker died March 7, 2015, living until age 98 in a Queens nursing home after spending more than 50 years in various institutions.

spinner image 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
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.
RAYMOND BOYD, MICHAEL OCHS ARCHIVES VIA GETTY IMAGES

7. 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.

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.

In 2020, Jefferson County commissioners voted to preserve what remains of the old county jail on the seventh floor of the Jefferson County Courthouse at 716 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd. N. (The road was 21st Street North when King was jailed.)

spinner image "March on Washington participants, marching from the Washington Monument, gather in front of the Lincoln Memorial to protest race discrimination."
More than 250,000 demonstrators gather Aug. 28, 1963, in front of the Lincoln Memorial to hear Martin Luther King Jr. during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
BETTMANN ARCHIVE VIA GETTY IMAGES

8. 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 of a 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 Auto Workers union, made remarks.

spinner image 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 "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963
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.
PICTURE ALLIANCE VIA GETTY IMAGES

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 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 memorials takes a little more than 10 minutes to walk.

9. 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.

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 a police line to punch and kick several of the demonstrators, a repetition of violence that 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 cite 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 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.

spinner image the grand hotel in oslo norway inset martin luther king junior holding the nobel peace prize
When Martin Luther King Jr. accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway, in 1964, he attended the banquet at the Grand Hotel. King holds the Nobel Peace Prize on Dec. 10, 1964.
Grand Hotel/Kyle Meyr / NTB / Alamy Stock Photo

10. Oslo, Norway

Site: The University of Oslo

Location: Karl Johans gate 47. The University of Oslo, known locally as the University Aula, is in the city’s center.

Then: King arrived in Oslo on Dec. 8, 1964, accompanied by his wife, members of his family and a group of SCLC staff. At a news conference, King said the trip was the first time many in his party had been to Scandinavia, and they hoped to learn from the region’s democratic socialist traditions.

King accepted the Nobel Peace Prize on Dec. 10, 1964, in the University of Oslo’s auditorium, where the ceremony was held annually from 1947 to 1990. In his speech, he called the award a “profound recognition that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time.” King was 35 years old when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize. He donated all of the $54,123 prize money to civil rights organizations, such as the Gandhi Society for Human Rights and the SCLC.

Now: The Nobel Peace Prize ceremony is held in Oslo City Hall, but the University of Oslo is open to the public on the first Saturday of each month from 12-3 p.m. After the ceremony, King attended the Nobel Banquet at the Grand Hotel, which will celebrate 150 years in business in 2024. The former American Embassy in Oslo, where King and his family were hosted for dinner and a reception during their trip, has been converted into a commercial building serving the public with a restaurant, cafe and wine bar, and rooftop terrace.

spinner image the lorraine motel and national civil rights museum
The site of the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, is the home of the National Civil Rights Museum.
Ian G Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo

11. 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.

After King was killed, the Lorraine Motel preserved Room 306 where he was staying and adjoining Room 307. The motel became single-room occupancy housing for low-income individuals before it closed for good in 1988. It was restored and opened in 1991 as the National Civil Rights Museum.

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, serves as headquarters of the Church of God in Christ.

Editor's note: This article was originally published on Jan. 15, 2020. It has been updated to reflect new information.

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