Wondering what sites you might visit to teach the kids about the Civil Rights Movement and Black History in this country? Atlanta, GA has a number of important sites and parks including the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr. Kidding Around’s Melanie visited Atlanta to show her children some of Atlanta’s Civil Rights history and has all the information you need for a full day or weekend full of sites to visit.
America has a rich and diverse history. It’s filled with the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s essential to learn about as much of it as possible (along with my children) to understand current affairs better. I recently combined our love for Atlanta with our quest for knowledge.
I’m glad that Atlanta is just a short drive away because I feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface! Georgia’s capital isn’t just the birthplace of one of the most iconic people from the civil rights movement; it’s home to the stories of so many other important people in the Black History of America.
Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park
The place where Michael King, Jr., was born and became the historical figure we all know is just about a block from where he was laid to rest.
*Fun Fact: Did you know that Martin was actually Michael at birth? After a trip to Germany, Michael King Sr. was inspired by the religious leader Martin Luther and changed his and his 5-year-old son’s name from Michael King to Martin Luther King.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park in Atlanta is roughly 35 acres within the City of Atlanta, including his place of birth, Ebenezer Baptist Church, a welcome center, and Dr. and Mrs. King’s tomb. Due to COVID precautions at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park, most of the experience’s interior portions are closed, but this is still a worthwhile experience just doing the outdoor things.
The MLK National Historical Park is a self-guided walkable tour, with convenient parking behind the social justice center, next to Ebenezer Church. National Parks are federal property, so masks are currently mandatory. It’s open rain or shine, so we didn’t let the sprinkle stop us. If your kids are inquisitive, be prepared to answer tons of questions.
For children ages 6-12, there is a Junior Ranger program they can complete. You can print out the official activity booklet at home and bring it with you to complete.
*Fun Fact: Did you know that MLK was such a gifted student that he skipped grades 9 and 12, making him only 15 years old when he began college life at Morehouse.
Seeing the things currently open should take about 2 hours and is stroller friendly.
National Center For Civil and Human Rights
This modern center, dedicated to the fight for equal rights, is a place where you could spend the entire day. The exhibits include a lunch counter sit-in experience, view documents from Martin Luther King, Jr., attend a workshop, and more.
Due to Covid, this is something my family will be putting on our post-covid bucket list. However, the nice thing about the center is all the virtual ways to expeience The National Center for Civil and Human Rights in the meantime.
The Herndon Home
Sitting in the shadow of the behemoth Mercedes Benz Stadium in the heart of downtown Atlanta is a beautiful home. To look at it, you wouldn’t know the history it holds from the outside. The century-old home (1910) was built by the first Black millionaire in Georgia, Alonzo Herndon. Born into slavery, Alonzo was 20 with just a few dollars in his pocket when he left the life he’d always known to find something better. He cut his first head of hair, which led him down the success path that helped him create affordable housing in the Black communities. Mr. Herndon’s story is inspiring, and this beautiful home is a lasting legacy to all that this once enslaved gentleman overcame.
*Interesting Fact: His father was the plantation owner that his mother and brother were enslaved to. This aided them in being emancipated because the plantation owner’s wife wanted the reminder of her husband’s misdeeds out of view.
John Lewis Mural
Long before John Lewis served 17 terms as a Georgia Congressman, he was a peer of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He was one of the “Big Six” civil rights leaders who organized the March on Washington. The end of legalized segregation in the United States was primarily due to the things he did. John Lewis led what became the first of three separate marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, across the Edmund Pettus bridge in 1965. Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and The Reverend Billy Graham, Lewis was ordained as a Baptist minister. In 2012, at the mural dedication, Lewis added the final touch to the work of art by painting the dot over the “i” in his last name. He passed away in the summer of 2020 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
*Fun Fact: In 1977, President Jimmy Carter put John Lewis in charge of a federal volunteer agency that oversaw programs including the peace corps. This was nearly ten years before he was elected to the House of Representatives for the first time.
As mentioned before, there is so much in Atlanta to see when it comes to Black history. I’m already planning a trip back to visit the Madam CJ Walker Museum.
Is there someplace we should see while we are there?
Want to learn more? Check out our guide for Charleston Sites to Visit in Honor of Black History Month.