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Atlanta Civil Rights Day Tour

Photo by Yvonne Bowens

The Heart of the Civil Rights Movement

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The Atlanta Civil Rights Day Tour includes numerous locations which pay tribute to those who shaped the era of the Civil Rights Movement. As it gained momentum during the 1950s and 60s, Atlanta became its center point.

You may actually want to start your tour at the Center for Civil and Human Rights Museum itself in downtown Atlanta near the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola. The museum covers global human rights issues but is largely dedicated the U.S. struggles, complete with interactive exhibits. Atlanta’s role in that era is indisputable.

After the museum, walk through Centennial Olympic Park to the corner of Centennial Olympic Park Drive and Andrew Young Boulevard (named for Civil Rights Icon and former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young). Hop the Atlanta Street Car and take a ride to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Historic District. The street car will take you along Luckie Street, turning on to Edgewood. Stay on the car for six stops until it makes a left on Jackson Street and stops at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. Here you will be immersed in the life and history of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr..

The National Park Service runs most of the district, which includes:

Visiting the 23 acre site that encompasses the King Historic District will take you a few hours. The current Ebenezer Baptist Church and it’s Horizon Sanctuary is right next door to the NPS Visitor Center but is operated independently as a place of worship.

When are you are through at the King site, make your way down Auburn Avenue back towards downtown. Known as “Sweet Auburn,” this street was bustling during the Civil Rights era and is chock full of historic sites.

You will pass by the original headquarters of the Southern Christian Leadership Committee. Located at the Prince Hall Masonic Temple and Tabor Building on the corner of Auburn and Hillard, it is not open to the public but there are photographs from that time on the window. The current SCLC headquarters are right next door.

Continue along Auburn and under I-75/I-85. At the corner of Auburn and Jesse Hill Drive you will find a mural of John Lewis. Lewis became involved in Civil Rights over 50 years ago as the founding leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, leading sit-ins and protests and planning Freedom Rides. He is currently the senior U.S. Congressman and still lives in Atlanta.

The mural is next door to the Butler Street YMCA. Built in 1920, the Y was the center of activity in the Auburn neighborhood. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Julian Bond both came here in their youth.

The Sweet Auburn Curb Market is located on Edgewood just down Jesse Hill Drive from the YMCA. You passed it on the street car.

Other sites to visit, but which are away from the downtown area are:

  • South View Cemetery
  • Morris Brown College

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