Guide

Explore Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Legacy at #MLK50

On the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, explore some of the historic places that shaped the legendary civil rights leader's life and legacy—places that continue to educate, challenge, and inspire us today.

  1. Photo By: Nathan Rupert/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Lincoln Memorial

    Dr. King’s most famous speech, “I Have a Dream,” was delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963. In the speech, Dr. King called for an end to racism in America, as well as for civil and economic rights. Today, a plaque marks the exact spot where he spoke to a crowd of over 250,000 civil rights supporters.

  2. Photo By: Daniel Lobo/Flickr/Public Domain

    Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

    A memorial to remember Dr. King’s life was dedicated on August 28, 2011, the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, in West Potomac Park. Dr. King is the first African American and fourth non-president to be honored with a memorial on the National Mall. The memorial includes a massive carved mountain with a slice pulled out of it, symbolizing the “Stone of Hope” being hewn from the “Mountain of Despair” Dr. King referenced in his “I Have a Dream” speech.

  3. Photo By: William H. Ransom

    Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park

    The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park is centered around Dr. King's boyhood home and includes many other structures important to his story. The site is a part of the larger Sweet Auburn neighborhood and is a key part of a thriving community. The Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church was the site of many meetings and rallies—including the 1957 gathering that led to the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The church sits at the center of the country’s Civil Rights movement and also served as Dr. King’s lifelong spiritual home.

  4. Photo By: Stan Kaady

    Sweet Auburn Historic District

    Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976, Sweet Auburn is a prime example of the flourishing segregated neighborhoods founded by African Americans during the Jim Crow era in the South. The neighborhood was home to countless businesses, congregations, and social organizations, and was the birthplace of Dr. King. The house in which he was born still stands at 501 Auburn Avenue.

  5. Photo By: City of Birmingham Archives

    A.G. Gaston Motel

    Part of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument, The Gaston was at the epicenter of city’s civil rights protests and demonstrations. During the spring of 1963, Dr. King stayed in Room 30—a “war room” for the movement’s top leaders. This is where he made the decision to defy a court’s injunction and submit himself to being jailed to show solidarity with local protesters (A.G. Gaston paid the $160,000 bond to release Dr. King from jail).

  6. Photo By: Brent Moore/Flickr/CC BY-NC 2.0

    Edmund Winston Pettus Bridge

    On Sunday, March 7, 1965, hundreds of civil rights marchers heading east out of Selma, Alabama, toward Montgomery were violently confronted by state and local law enforcement at the Edmund Winston Pettus Bridge, built in 1940. The day became known as Bloody Sunday. Two days later, Martin Luther King, Jr. led a symbolic march to the bridge. And on Sunday, March 21, some 3,200 marchers continued the journey across the bridge arriving in Montgomery four days later as a crowd of 25,000.

  7. Photo By: Steve Jones

    Clayborn Temple

    During the Sanitation Workers’ Strike of 1968, civil rights supporters and labor activists organized together inside Memphis’ Clayborn Temple (a National Treasure). The movement came to a head when Dr. King joined efforts with the strikers and their supporters. Dr. King first appeared in Memphis for a speech at Mason Temple on March 18, 1968, and he continued organizing around the Sanitation Workers’ Strike when he realized how dire the workers’ situation had become, until his death on April 4 at the Lorraine Motel.

  8. Photo By: Adam Jones/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

    Mason Temple: Church of God in Christ

    On the evening of April 3, 1968, the historic Mason Temple in Memphis had scheduled the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's (SCLC) Rev. Ralph Abernathy, Dr. King's associate, as the evening speaker, but when the 3,000-person crowd demanded to hear Dr. King, Abernathy phoned Dr. King at his room in the Lorraine Motel and asked him to address the assembly. Dr. King delivered his prophetic “I've Been to the Mountaintop” speech in this church on the eve of his assassination.

  9. Photo By: Alberto Cabello/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    Lorraine Motel

    On April 4, 1968, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated on the balcony of his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where he had traveled to support the city’s sanitation workers strike. Built in 1925 as a "whites only" motel, by the end of World War II the Lorraine had become a black establishment that hosted Cab Calloway, Count Basie, and other prominent jazz musicians of the day. It is now home to the National Civil Rights Museum, following a difficult campaign to save the modest building from foreclosure or demolition.

  10. Photo By: Camilo José Vergara

    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Murals

    Half a century after his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. remains a popular subject of street art in America’s black and low-income urban neighborhoods. Since the 1970s, photographer Camilo Jose Vergara has documented hand-painted images of the civil rights leader in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Detroit, among other places.

In his speeches and sermons, Dr. King often expressed a crucial fact about America: our history is the story we use to explain ourselves and define our community, so we have to get it right. Read more from the National Trust about #MLK50.

Join the movement to save and sustain historic African American places. The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund will help every American see themselves, their history, and their potential in our collective story and national cultural landscape.

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