For my 30th birthday last September, I went to Atlanta, Georgia, and the stated intent was to skydive, but Atlanta has a lot of neat things around the area aside from that, largely free and walkable (once you’re in Atlanta). I talked about one of those being The Walking Dead “bridge,” aka, the Jackson Street Bridge. You can read about that here.
Well, another one of the big items I stumbled upon, which admittedly I didn’t even know was there, was the birthplace home of Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as where he’s entombed with his wife, Coretta Scott King. The entombment is at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, which is also right near the famed, historical Ebenezer Baptist Church. To see a church that not only was built in 1886, but where MLK himself co-pastored, had his funeral service, and then Congressman John Lewis also had his funeral service (for which former President Barack Obama attended) gave me goosebumps.
In fact, that entire area where Martin Luther King, Jr. was born, Sweet Auburn, is sort of a Civil Rights Era historic neighborhood. One of the other houses I took a photo of was that of Rev. Peter James Bryant and then later Antoine Graves.
The tombstones are centered in the middle of the most gorgeous reflecting pool I’ve ever seen — the most striking blue water. There’s also an eternal flame opposite the reflecting pool.
I’ve been meaning to share this story since I went in September 2020, but I’ve been procrastinating as usual, but I suppose that turned out well since I can share them now on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
King was a far more complex, nuanced and interesting character than history will allow or encompass in one day (or uh, one blog post), but I always like to take a moment on this day to think about him and his contributions to America. I think the biggest takeaway I’ve always had from King is that his worry wasn’t the extremist in the Ku Klux Klan hood, but the moderate who apathetically said, “Wait. Just wait.” That’s a sort of paraphrase of one of the passages from his Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
The passage is too dang good not to quote in full:
“I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
You can read the full letter here.
Also, I think something that isn’t talked about as much, regardless of one’s political persuasion or how they try to funnel their own views through MLK, is that of his religious beliefs. I just mentioned that he was a co-pastor and was obviously deeply religious, but I don’t feel like that aspect of his worldview is talked about much or those lessons are imparted on fellow Christians enough. I would think it’s those religious beliefs that informed his nonviolent beliefs and his antiwar beliefs and his views on poverty. Nonetheless.
Here are the pictures I took. The picture of the yellow house is where MLK was born: