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Friday, January 11, 2013

Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site

The last few days of our trip didn't go quite as planned when I came down with a nasty upper respiratory bug.  Nothing will kill your desire to get out and do things quicker! The day that we visited the Carter site and the MLK site was the day I finally admitted I was sick, and the following two days were spent at the mall or watching endless sitcom reruns while plowing through probably a whole tree's worth of TP and tissues! But, we did get out that one day, and while in Atlanta Katrina wanted to revisit the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site to take in some of the details that she might have missed during her visit last year on UWEC's Civil Rights Pilgrimage.

Upon entering the visitor center, the first thing I noticed was the quote: "Don't allow anybody to make you feel that you're nobody.  Always feel that you count.  Always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance." Fortunately, I can't imagine growing up in a time and place where society felt that I was worthless and was prepared not to even give me a chance.  Luckily for many people, Martin Luther King Jr. believed in himself despite living in such an oppressive time and place.

King grew up in an Atlanta neighborhood called Sweet Auburn, and that is where the site is located. This black neighborhood arose due to increased segregation after the 1906 Atlanta race riot. By 1930 there were 121 black-owned businesses located here.  From the visitor's center you can walk to the historic Fire Station No. 6 where details of the neighborhood are displayed.  The Fire Station was instrumental in the desegregation of the city's fire departments and King lived just houses away as a child.

Katrina is appalled at the Jim Crow laws that were on the books, not to mention the treatment of black citizens during peaceful protests such as the Birmingham campaign.  King was a great admirer of Gandhi and called on the black community to follow his example of nonviolent resistance.  The method was successful and King traveled all around the south providing leadership.  I was surprised to learn that he even came to Chicago to protest housing segregation. From the linked article: As King marched, someone hurled a stone. It struck King on the head. Stunned, he fell to one knee. He stayed on the ground for several seconds. As he rose, aides and bodyguards surrounded him to protect him from the rocks, bottles and firecrackers that rained down on the demonstrators. King was one of 30 people who were injured; the disturbance resulted in 40 arrests. He later explained why he put himself at risk: "I have to do this--to expose myself--to bring this hate into the open." 

At another march two days after the incident in <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="PLGEO100100501255700" title="Marquette Park" href="/topic/us/illinois/cook-county/chicago/marquette-park-PLGEO100100501255700.topic">Marquette Park</a>, where an open-housing march turned violent, white youths demonstrate the intensity of racial feeling in the city that summer.

Truthfully I struggled not to cry the entire time we were there. And unfortunately, hate for others still exists in our world.  I know I speak up when I see injustice, I've spoken up for women I have encountered in domestic violence situations and for women who were being harassed at's hard, but I hope this will help remind others it is important to stand up for what is right, even at personal cost.

We took a quick trip into the old Ebenezer Baptist Church which plays audio of King's sermons.  Also nearby is the gravesite of Dr. King and his wife along with an eternal flame.  Their crypt is in the center of a reflecting pool.

I picked up a copy of "The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr." at the gift shop and I'll leave you with another quote.  "True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice."

1 comment:

  1. A shame that the peoples of this world still don't see that our differences are to be cherished, not hated.