Thousands Gather to Honor Martin Luther King, Jr.

Atlanta's historic Ebenezer Baptist Church was packed by nine a.m. in commemoration of the civil rights leader's life and service.

Photo by: Francis Miller/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Image Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech on the mall in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963. 

All across the country, people gathered to celebrate the life of fallen civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. In Atlanta, the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church was packed by 9 a.m. with King’s relatives, members of the public as well as political dignitaries including U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia’s Fourth District, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. 

Photo by: Holly Aguirre MLK, Jr. attended the Ebenezer Baptist Church as a child. The church was founded in 1886 during the Reconstruction Era. 

Many faces in the crowd were children and Reed addressed them directly, citing the need to recommit to Atlanta’s youth. In reference to King's famous "I Have a Dream," speech, he said that MLK, Jr. would want children to hear it as a call to stay in school. 

"We need to swap the lesson plan for a dream plan," Reed said to the crowd. "You are not going to school just to study math, you're going to school to be somebody."

Photo by: Holly Aguirre Located in the historic Sweet Auburn district in Atlanta, the childhood home of MLK, Jr. is open year round for tours. 

King was born in Atlanta on January 15, 1929; President Ronald Reagan enacted the holiday commemorating his birth in the mid 1980s. He received the Nobel Peace Prize 50 years ago (1964) and, at the time, was the youngest Peace Prize winner ever, at the age of 35. King was assassinated outside a hotel in Memphis on April 4, 1968. 

Mayor Reed also reprimanded himself personally and committed to revitalizing the Atlanta street that bears the leader’s name.

“Shame on me and shame on all of us…that Martin Luther King Jr. Drive looks like every other Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in the United States of America,” he said.

In honor of Dr. King, people all across the nation volunteered in community beautification projects and charity events. 

The King Center was established by Coretta Scott King, King's widow, in 1968  as“no dead monument, but a living memorial filled with all the vitality that was his, a center of human endeavor, committed to the causes for which he lived and died," according to King herself. It is open to visitors all year and admission is free. See the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change for more details. 

More Photos Below

Photo courtesy the King Center This is rare a photograph of MLK, Jr. and his wife Coretta at a formal event in the 1960s. 

Photo by George Paul Puvvada The tomb of MLK, Jr. and his wife Coretta Scott King is located outside the King Center in Atlanta. 

Photo courtesy the King Center This is the exterior signage outside the Martin Luther King, Jr. National historic site. 

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