January 22, 2013 Slideshows

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Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta 

Joeff Davis
King Birth Home
501 Auburn Ave.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s connection to Atlanta runs deep.

He was born in Atlanta on Jan. 15, 1929 in an upstairs bedroom at 501 Auburn Ave. In this photo, from the King Family Collection, he stands in front of his birth home.
Joeff Davis
King lived in the house for 12 years with members of his immediate family as well as his maternal grandparents, uncle, and great aunt.
Joeff Davis
Booker T. Washington High School
45 White House Drive

King was a student at Booker T. Washington High School in southwest Atlanta in the early 1940's prior to attending Morehouse College. The front of the building has not changed since 1927.
Joeff Davis
The Martin Luther King, Jr. International Chapel
Morehouse College

King graduated from Morehouse in 1948 at the age of 19.
Joeff Davis
"We had several classes together," said Dr. Samuel DuBois Cook. The 83-year old graduated with King from Morehouse. "We talked as college kids talk. A lot of trash, about class and about the campus and so forth..."

"I thought he would be a great preacher. He was very articulate. He always had a great sense of humor."

"There was a great deal of concern about civil rights at the time. President [Harry] Truman had appointed a commission on civil rights so it was very much the order of the day. There was a lot of foment at that time. I am sure some of the people thought we should go slower. This was in the mid 1940's. Some were not excited about the movement and social change."

"I remember us boycotting a grocery store along with Dr. King in the neighborhood. It developed into a civil rights issue because of the prices and the quality of food."
Joeff Davis
Photostat of Martin Luther King, Jr's, Morehouse College - Official Transcript

According to his official transcript, King received one "A" — in Bible class — during his four years at Morehouse.

At Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Penn., where he enrolled after graduating from Morehouse, King received C's in his second and third term in Public Speaking.

Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection, Atlanta University Center (AUC) Woodruff Library
These items are under copyright protection through The Estate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Joeff Davis
King House
234 Sunset Ave.

King and his family lived in this house on Sunset Ave. in Vine City throughout the 1960's, including when he was killed in 1968.

“The whole family lived there," Patricia Latimore, who was hired to babysit the kids as a teenager around 1965, told CL. "I had just finished high school and the supervisor at the Greater Springfield Baptist church recommended me as a babysitter for the King family."

"I never told anyone I was the babysitter because people thought of [King] as a troublemaker."
Joeff Davis
"Often times, Martin Luther King, would give me a ride home himself because at the time they lived near a housing project."

"Everybody was shocked at his death," Latimore said. "People all of a sudden portrayed him as being someone great. I just thought of them as an ordinary family. I see now how he affected history but I did not think he was so great at the time."

"Dr. King played with the kids on a swing set a lot in the backyard. The swing set is still there."
Joeff Davis
Sam Nunn Federal Center (formerly Rich's Department Store)
45 Broad St.

On Oct. 19, 1960, King and many student activists were arrested at Rich’s Department Store in downtown Atlanta. They were arrested after being refused service at the Magnolia Tea Room. According to Courtney Chartier of the Archives Research Center at the Atlanta University Center's Woodruff Library, it was one of many demonstrations organized that day by the Atlanta Committee on the Appeal for Human Rights which tried to desegregate Atlanta restaurants.

King, who was initially reluctant to be part of the sit-in, was arrested and spent his first night ever in jail as a result of the protest. He was booked in Fulton County Jail. King and several dozen people who were arrested refused to make bail as a continued form of protest.

After four days in jail, all charges against the protesters were dropped and they were released without paying bail. That is, except for Dr. King. He continued to be held for violating probation for a ticket he received in May 1960 in DeKalb county for failure to obtain a Georgia drivers license after relocating to Atlanta from Alabama. Even though King had appeared in court and paid the ticket in September, according to Chartier, he was not aware that he was being put on probation. The arrest at Rich’s, according to police, violated his probation.
Joeff Davis
Statement to judge after being arrested at Rich’s Department Store

After being arrested at Rich's, King wrote a three-page statement to the judge presiding over the bail hearing. It begins:

Your honor, I would simply like to say that I don't think we have done anything wrong in seeking to be served at the Magnolia Tea Room of Rich's. We assembled quietly, peacefully and non-violently to seek service just as any other citizens. If we lived in a totalitarian regime or a gestapo system I could see how we might have been wrong. But one of the great glories of democracy is the right to protest for right. So we do not feel that we have violated the law.

Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection, Atlanta University Center (AUC) Woodruff Library
These items are under copyright protection through The Estate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Fulton County Sheriff's Department
Fulton County Jail
Butler St. and Decatur St.

King was held here after his arrest at Rich's. The jail was nicknamed the "Big Rock Jail."

Legend has it that the tower near the street was designed for hangings, according to Tracy Flanagan of the Fulton County Sheriff's Department.

On Oct. 25, King was taken from Fulton County Jail to DeKalb County Jail for his probation violation. A judge sentenced King to four months at Georgia State prison in Reidsville, with no bond, according to Chartier's research.

The next night, King was reportedly woken up in middle of the night and transferred to the state prison.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. John F. Kennedy, who was in the final weeks of his presidential campaign, was made aware of King’s situation. The candidate called a pregnant Coretta Scott King, offering to help. Robert Kennedy also made a phone call to the judge who had sentenced King calling for his release.

On Oct. 27, the judge allowed King to be released on bond. The civil rights activist publicly thanked Kennedy for helping with his release. The Kennedy campaign used King’s thank you in a widely distributed pamphlet to help gain the African-American vote for JFK in the presidential election.
Joeff Davis
Sam Nunn Federal Center
61 Forsyth St.

“There is no doubt that this event made a difference,” says Cliff Kuhn of Georgia State University, referring to Kennedy’s ability to capitalize on his involvement in King’s release, which led to black support for Kennedy across the country.

“The black vote was the margin of victory in a number of states,” the associate professor of history said about the famously close 1960 presidential election. Kennedy won by a tiny margin over Nixon.

A gigantic mosaic made up of some 500,000 tiles is located in the lobby of the Main Tower of the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center, which once included part of Rich's. A portion of the mural is a giant reproduction of King walking outside the department store the day of the arrest. The mosaic, by artist Mike Mandel, is based on an Associated Press photo. The building is open to the public.
Joeff Davis
Prince Hall Masonic Temple and Tabor Building
332-34 Auburn Ave.

King was the president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), which launched civil rights campaigns that changed American history.

Between 1960 and 1968, the SCLC had its office space and held its meetings in this building on the corner of Auburn and Hilliard streets.
Joeff Davis
“He would come in early in the morning and tease the staff,” said Fredrick Moore as he stands in the space where King's office was located on the building's first floor. Moore has been a SCLC staffer since 1965, when he began as a volunteer as a high school student.
Joeff Davis
Today, the former SCLC offices still serve as community meeting rooms and a space for special events, according to Tree Walker, who takes care of the building. It was built in 1937.
Joeff Davis
Parking Lot
Intersection of Jackson and Irwin streets

In the early 1960s, Scripto was one of the nation’s leading pencil and pen manufacturers and one of Atlanta’s largest employers. Scripto’s buildings took up two addresses on Houston (now Irwin) Street.

In November 1964, Atlanta Scripto workers walked off their jobs demanding more pay. At the time, non-skilled workers were making $400 a year less then the federal poverty level, according to Georgia State University’s Library records from the strike.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference took up the cause of raising wages for both black and white laborers at Scripto. Many of the black workers were members of King’s church. The SCLC and the Chemical Workers Union’s combined efforts put greater pressure on Scripto resulting in Scripto giving its workers a Christmas bonus and a raise each year for the following three years. On Jan. 9, 1965 the Scripto strike ended. In addition to giving raises, Scripto had to rehire 155 striking workers and keep the replacement workers it had hired during the strike, according to the Georgia State records. The factory closed in 1994.

The Scripto strike was the first time Dr. King had walked a picket line. He had recently won the Nobel Peace prize, and many Atlanta business leaders, according to Georgia State History Professor Cliff Kuhn, did not look at his involvement in the strike positively.

In many ways, King’s role in the strike was a major shift. For the first time, the civil rights leader was involving himself and the SCLC in a labor dispute and workers rights.

This was a cause King continued to champion as he went on to expand his efforts beyond civil rights, in the last years of his life. He was murdered on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, where he was supporting striking sanitation workers.

Clark Moore of the King National Historic Site says that the old Scripto factory where King marched the picket line is now a parking lot for the King Historic Site (pictured above).

- Chad Radford (additional research by Joeff Davis)
Joeff Davis
Martin Luther King Jr. Drive (formerly Hunter St.)

It’s been years since anyone’s occupied the unassuming restaurant started by the sons of sharecroppers and where King and other leaders of the civil rights movement met. Founded by brothers James and Robert Paschal, the restaurant served fried chicken, potato salad, and peach cobbler to the leaders and foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement. And, most importantly, provided a place to to plot strategy.

In the early 1960s, King visited the brothers and asked for space to “build a coalition.” According to a Washington Post profile about the legendary spot, King’s special set-aside room was the site of planning for the 1963 March on Washington — and celebration after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

“The food, the comfortable surroundings, and the welcoming environment helped to fortify us to go out and do battle,” Congressman John Lewis, D-Atlanta said in a statement when James Paschal died in 2008. “The last time I saw Martin Luther King Jr. alive, I was in Paschal’s Restaurant. He had called a coalition of activists together to plan the Poor People’s campaign, and he held that meeting at Paschal’s."

- Thomas Wheatley
Joeff Davis
Ebenezer Baptist Church - Heritage Sanctuary
Auburn Ave. and Jackson St.

King was baptized in the historic church. In 1960, he became co-pastor with his father.
Joeff Davis
King shared pastor duties with his father until the civil rights leader was assassinated in 1968. King's funeral was also held in the church on April 9, 1968.
Joeff Davis
Lesser known is that King's mother, Alberta King, who also worked with Ebenezer Baptist Church's choir, was killed there while playing “The Lord’s Prayer,” on June 30, 1974 during a Sunday service.

A man in a front pew took out two guns and started firing. According to a New York Times obituary of the killer he was motivated by his “hatred of Christianity” and “because he felt God had told him to.” A church deacon was also killed in the shooting.
Joeff Davis
Today the church is fully restored to its 1960's appearance. It is open to the public and free of charge from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the winter.

Inside, King’s sermons and speeches are loudly played making it feel as if he is still alive.
Joeff Davis
The Martin Luther King, Jr. International Chapel
Morehouse College

King graduated from Morehouse in 1948 at the age of 19.
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