In Atlanta, we walk in the footsteps of Civil Rights leaders during Black History Month, and every month. This February, take the opportunity to honor and acknowledge Black contributions by taking a closer look at some of Atlanta’s (and our nation’s) most important historical sites—many of which we probably pass in carpool every day. Brush up on Black history with a walk or a history lesson, and see our city through entirely new eyes.

Visit the MLK National Historical Park

What do you know about the Civil Rights Movement? Learn something new about the people from the past—famous and not so famous— who played a part in the movement. The Visitor Center, Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, and Freedom Hall are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. The Birth Home is open for ranger-led tours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Fire Station No. 6 is staffed by park volunteers and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. when volunteers are available. All sites are free to the public.

450 Auburn Ave., NE
Atlanta, Ga
404-331-5190
Online: nps.gov

photo: iStock

Spend a Day in the Sweet Auburn Historic District

During the 1920s, Auburn Avenue became the commercial center of Black Atlanta. The phrase "Sweet Auburn" was coined by businessman and civil rights activist John Wesley Dobbs, the Unofficial Mayor of Sweet Auburn, and the maternal grandfather of Atlanta's first African American mayor, Maynard Jackson. Today, the avenue is home to the Sweet Auburn Springfest, the Caribbean Festival & Parade, and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Parade. Here's the best way to spend a day in the Sweet Auburn Historic District. On a regular day, you'll find historical sites on every corner, small and large museums, and plenty of good places to grab lunch.

Online: sweetauburnworks.com

Visit the Apex Museum

The Apex  Museum in the Sweet Auburn Historic District is packed with knowledge of the African- American experience from Africa to America. While the museum focuses a great deal on slavery, it also takes a deep dive into African culture, Black inventors, and Black leaders. Exhibits span from “Africa the Untold Story,” where visitors can learn about the African continent over the past 6,000 years, to “Sweet Auburn Street Pride,” that helps visitors experience a more localized history of African-American life in Atlanta.

135 Auburn Ave. NE
Atlanta, GA 30303
Online: apexmuseum.org

Visit the Martin Luther King Jr. Center

Begin your tour of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center by following the Civil Rights Walk of Fame, past the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, and proceed to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site Visitor Center, where you can reserve a ticket for Dr. Martin Luther King Jrs.’ Birth Home. Proceed east on Auburn to enter the King Center’s outdoor campus where you can view the crypt of Dr. and Mrs. King, the Eternal Flame, Freedom Walkway and the Reflecting Pool at will. Walk eastward along the pool to Freedom Hall, where you can learn more about Dr. King, Mrs. King and The King Center through immersive exhibits.

449 Auburn Ave. NE
Atlanta, GA 30312

Walk Through The National Center for Civil & Human Rights

The National Center for Civil and Human Rights believes in justice and dignity for all, and the power of people to make this idea real. They inspire visitors with immersive exhibitions, dynamic events and conversations, and engagement and education/training programs. Be sure to download their  “Across Generations” intergenerational conversation starter for you to use on your visit. 

100 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd. NW
Atlanta, GA
Online: civilandhumanrights.org

Take the African American Burial Grounds Tour at Oakland Cemetery

Throughout February, Historic Oakland Foundation hosts free guided walking tours of Oakland Cemetery’s historic African American Burial Grounds, with stops at the final resting places of a few Atlanta pioneers, including Carrie Steele Logan, founder of Atlanta’s first orphanage for African American children; William Finch, one of Atlanta’s first African American city councilmen; Bishop Wesley John Gaines and Julia A. Gaines, pastor and First Lady of Big Bethel A.M.E. Church; and Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first African American mayor. While the tour is free, donations are greatly appreciated and will be designated specifically for the ongoing restoration of the historic African American Burial Grounds. Registration is required. Here's the scoop.

248 Oakland Ave, SE
Atlanta, GA
404-688-2107
Online: oaklandcemetery.com

 

Visit Morehouse College, MLK's Alma Mater

Morehouse College, founded in 1867, is a historically black, private liberal arts college for men. One of the college’s most distinguished alumnus is Martin Luther King, Jr., who graduated in 1948. Inside The Martin Luther King, Jr. International Chapel you'll find a Hall of Honor, with 158 oil portraits of world leaders in the civil and human rights movement, and a bust of Mahatma Gandhi. Outside, you'll find a bronze statue of Dr. King, and the burial crypt and towering obelisk for Dr. Howard Washington Thurman.

830 Westview Dr. NW
Atlanta GA 30314
Online: morehouse.edu

Find the Student Movement Marker

At the former site of Yates & Milton Drug Store, which is now the Student Center on the campus of Clark Atlanta University, you can find a Georgia Historical Society marker that tells the story of the Atlanta Student Movement, which began when three Morehouse College students—Lonnie King, Joseph Pierce and Julian Bond—formed the Committee on the Appeal for Human Rights and involved all the historically black institutions of the Atlanta University Center (AUC). AUC students conducted sit-ins at segregated lunch counters throughout Atlanta, movie theaters, parks and the Georgia State Capitol. When the students targeted the Magnolia Room at Rich's Department Store in downtown Atlanta, Martin Luther King, Jr. and his brother A.D. King joined them and were arrested with 77 student demonstrators. Protests continued over the next year until desegregation was achieved.

Corner of James P. Brawley Dr. SW & Atlanta Student Movement Blvd.
Atlanta GA 30314

Visit the Rep. John Lewis Mural

This 70-foot mural of the late Rep. John Lewis is located on the east side of the current Renaissance Walk building. Lewis was a politician and civil rights leader who served as the U.S. Representative for Georgia's 5th congressional district. Located in an area of downtown with much historical significance, you'll be walking in Lewis' footsteps if you go to pay this mural a visit. The Butler Street YMCA building, where civil rights leaders met in the 1960s, is directly south of this mural, and dozens of historical churches and businesses surround it in the Sweet Auburn Historic District

219 Auburn Ave. NE

Pedal Through History with Civil Bikes

Civil Bikes brings a fresh perspective to Civil Rights. Explore Atlanta history and human rights issues on a guided bike tour that takes you to places that make Atlanta unique. Check out an upcoming schedule of Atlanta walking and bike tours of greater Atlanta, Georgia's storied Sweet Auburn and historic West End neighborhoods. All tours are family friendly, and can accommodate any level of cyclists (or walkers!). Once you register for your Civil Bikes walking or bike tour, you will receive an email with details on where and when to meet, where to park, what to bring, and more.

Online: civilbikes.com

photo: Alta

The Jim Crow Exhibit at Atlanta History Center

The exhibit Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow at the Atlanta History Center explores the African-American struggle for full citizenship and racial equality that unfolded in the 50 years following the Civil War. It was created by the New York Historical Society in collaboration with the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and has a particular focus on local stories and artifacts. After checking out the exhibit, take a walk to the Smith Family Farm, then to the Swan House—all on the property of the Atlanta History Center—to imagine these historic sites through the eyes of an African-American during the time of their full operation.

130 W Paces Ferry Rd. NW
Atlanta, GA 30305
Online: atlantahistorycenter.com

Attend a Service or Visit Ebenezer Baptist Church

Each Sunday, visitors from around the globe join church members at the historic church where Dr. Martin Luther King served as Pastor—in person at Ebenezer or via Ebenezer Everywhere—to experience Ebenezer’s history. The doors are open to all, and in addition to visiting the original church, you should be sure to check out the Visitor's Center, the nearby King Center, Birth Home, World Peace Rose Garden, and Behold Monument.

407 Auburn Ave. NW
Atlanta, GA 30303
Online: ebenezeratl.org

photo: iStock

Take the Atlanta Black History Tour

The Atlanta Black History Tour follows the trail of Atlanta’s African-American history while illuminating black life and achievement in the city from pre-Civil War to the present day. Unlike bike or walking tours, the Atlanta Black History Tour allows you to relax in a comfortable motor coach as you tour the historical landmarks of Atlanta. The tour showcases Atlanta’s African-American neighborhoods and highlights the homes of its leading citizens.

706 -509 -0565
Online: atlblackhistorytour.com

photo: iStock

Worth the Drive

You'll find over 20 significant African-American historical sites in Athens, including Morton Theatre, Gospel Pilgrim Cemetery, and First African Methodist Episcopal Church—all ideal for a self-guided day of tours.

In Savannah, you'll find The Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum, which chronicles the civil rights struggle of Georgia's oldest African American community from slavery to the present.

Albany boasts the Civil Rights Institute, where visitors can take a state-of-the-art journey through the Civil Rights Movement and hear the Freedom Singers perform on the second Saturday of each month.

Head to coastal Sapelo Island to experience African-influenced Gullah-Geechee culture. It's open for tours throughout the year.

––Shelley Massey

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