In February, I visited these five engrossing sites in Atlanta. Sadly, due to the present Covid crisis, several of the sites remain closed. However, before heading out, be sure to check the websites for their current status.
Martin Luther King Historic Site
The Martin Luther King Historic Site run by the National Park Service incorporates several vital sites in Martin Luther King’s story: his birth home, the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he served as co-pastor and the King Center.
Martin Luther King grew up among the rich and poor in downtown Atlanta. His father, Martin Sr. made sure that Martin Jr. learned by his example on how to deal with racism in America in the 1950s and 1960s.
February 1, 1960, was the first sit-in at a Woolworth’s in Greensboro SC. It was then that the sit-in movement began.
King was co-pastor at the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.
King believed in peaceful protest and worked with both the (SCLC) Southern Christian Leadership Conference and SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) in setting up training centers for people to learn how to protest nonviolently.
When the Supreme Court ruled on Brown v. Board of Education, it paved the way for the integration of public schools. The SCLC recruited hundreds of people to integrate the schools in Birmingham, Alabama. Even very young children were involved. The jails were full of protesters. The public safety commissioner brought in dogs and water hoses to try and stem the protests. When the county cried out in disgust, Birmingham finally gave into the integration of the city in retail establishments and the hiring of black workers.
The final tribute to King is The Farm Wagon that carried Dr. King to his final resting place at Southview Cemetery. The Martin Luther King Historic site provides an engrossing learning experience and pays homage to Dr. Kings’ work for civil rights.
The King Center for Nonviolent Change
Across the street from the Martin Luther King Historic site is the King Center for Nonviolent Change. The Center began in 1968 by Coretta Scott King after her husband’s assassination in Memphis. The crypt for both Martin and Coretta sits not far from his childhood home. The eternal flame symbolizes King’s dream of a world of justice, peace, and equality for all mankind.
In the upstairs gallery at the King Center is a display of artifacts from the King family. Martin’s suitcase he used throughout his work during his civil rights work, Coretta’s dress from the noble prize ceremony, and Martin’s Nobel Prize. Do not miss seeing this gallery area.
Cemeteries are unique historical venues, providing an overview of the history of the cities citizens. Its tranquil garden setting, the cemetery is surrounded by the ever-changing city. Oakland Cemetery is the final resting place of some of Atlanta’s foremost citizens. Founded in 1850, it served the ever-expanding town of Atlanta. By 1872, it was expanded to meet the increasing number of deaths as a result of the Civil War.
The entrance gate to Oakland was constructed in 1896, and in 1976, Oakland was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Oakland Historical Foundation was also founded in 1976 to preserve the cemetery. Today, the foundation hosts daily tours as well as numerous events throughout the year.
Civil War History
Oakland is the final resting place to some seven thousand Confederate soldiers. The tallest of Oakland’s monuments, a sixty-foot granite obelisk, was laid in 1870 as a memorial to the Confederate Dead.
A few notable residents reside here: Bobby Jones, Golfer; Maynard Jackson, Mayor; and Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind.
Chick-Fil-A College Football Hall of Fame
Chick-Fil-A College Football Hall of Fame is a haven for College Football fans, the building is shaped like a football. The three-story helmet wall of the rotunda at the College Football Hall of Fame dominates guests as they enter. The wall contains over 1800 helmets of schools with four-year football programs from all football conferences and programs across the U.S. You cannot help but try and find your favorite team’s helmet on the wall. To make that task easier, the Hall provided each guest with an access pass with an imbedded RFDI chip.
At kiosks in the rotunda, guests can pick your favorite team, and the team’s helmet will light up. I was early enough in the day to be the first to light up my team’s helmet. If guests chose to provide their email address on the kiosks, this enables the visitor to have a customized tour based on your favorite team. There are many virtual and interactive exhibits where you can be ditigally ‘inserted’ into the action.
Across the lobby, visitors will find a 45-yard football field and agility course. The area is an excellent way to relive your glory days or let the kids run off some energy.
Inductees and Interactive Exhibits
The 2nd floor houses the Hall and the interactive exhibits. At the College GameDay interactive, you can read a script about your favorite team and have your mascot virtually inserted on your head. A short time later, a video of your encounter is emailed to you.
The Quarterback simulator is something to be experienced. Donning a virtual headgear system, you stand in front of a green screen and are instantly inserted into a football game where you call the plays for the team with a real football in your hands. Be careful not to throw out your shoulder on those long yardage passes.
Tours are self-guided, and on average, you will spend a couple of hours here seeing the trophies, learning about the history of the game, learning about the inductees, watching films, and participating in the interactive fun.
The Hall of Fame was initially opened in 1978 and located in King Mills, Ohio. Although this site did not have any exhibits, it only housed the Hall of Fame. The Ohio location closed in 1992 and relocated to South Bend, Indiana, until 2012. The present location opened in August 2014, next to Centennial Park in downtown Atlanta.
The College Football Hall of Fame is a definite must-see for any collegiate football fan.
National Center for Civil and Human Rights
American Civil Rights Movement
You begin your journey at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights through the turbulent times of the last fifty years of the civil rights battle in American. At the 1960s lunch counter interactive exhibit, you can sit at a 1960s lunch counter and experience in a small, brief experience what the individuals went through during sit-in protests of the 60s. It is an assault on the senses and gives you a real sense of what protestors went through during the lunch counter sit-ins. It is a popular exhibit; you may have a brief wait for a spot at the counter for the experience.
In 1965, Selma, Alabama, had only a small percent of registered black voters. ‘Bloody Sunday’ was a peaceful protest on March 7, 1965, about the inability to register to vote. As the protestors crossed the Edmund Pettis Bridge, they could see a line of police and dogs waiting for them. As the protesters, which included John Lewis, met the police line, they were beaten and trampled. Days later, the march continued from Selma to Montgomery. It wasn’t until after these horrific images of ‘Bloody Sunday’ that President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Voting Act on August 6, 1965.
There is a compelling exhibit on the assassination of Martin Luther King in Memphis.
Global Human Rights Movement
The global human rights movement encompasses many things around the globe, from black oppression in South Africa to ethnic cleansing and human trafficking the world over.
Morehouse College’s Document Collection
This rotating collection showcases Kings’ handwritten and personal items. I found viewing these items provided more direct insight into King, the man. Unfortunately, no photographs were allowed.
The National Center for Civil and Human Rights presents some of the past events graphically. Part of Its mission is to help people more fully understand the human cost of the ongoing issue of racism in America.
Atlanta has a wealth of exciting and informative museums and historical sites to explore. Once the present health crisis has passed, I know everyone looks forward to traveling again.