In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill establishing the third Monday in January as a federal holiday to honor Civil Rights Activist Martin Luther King, Jr. All across America, government offices, schools, and many businesses are closed. Cities large and small hold gala parades and special events. To get a more personal look at where Reverend King first preached his message of hope, equality, and brotherhood, head south to the Birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement—Montgomery, Alabama— and visit the sites that were meaningful to Reverend King during his lifetime—namely the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church and Parsonage.
Reverend King was pastor of Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church from 1954-1960 and began his quest for civil rights here. This was his first and only full-time pastorate. The church was also a center point of the Montgomery bus boycott that began in 1955. The church was originally founded in 1877 at a nearby location, and over the years has changed names a few times. The current red brick building on the corner of a busy street in downtown Montgomery, was constructed between 1883 and 1889 and is a National Historic Landmark. Tours of the church, arranged in advance, last one hour and include the modest pulpit from which Reverend King so eloquently spoke. Marvel at a 10 x 47 foot mural depicting the civil rights crusade from Montgomery to Memphis, and see Dr. King’s original office.
The clapboard Dexter Parsonage Museum, also listed on the National Register of Historic Places and located about six blocks from the church, can be toured as well. The Parsonage has been restored to appear as it did when Dr. King and his family lived here from 1954-1960. Much of the furniture presently in the house was actually used by Dr. King. Eleven other pastors also lived in this historic home. Take a peek in the museum gift shop for souvenirs and books on Reverend King. Enjoy a stroll through the magnolia tree-lined tranquil gardens at the rear of the parsonage.
Throughout his short life, Dr. King taught non-violent resistance to oppression as a means of achieving social and political parity. If he were still alive, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be celebrating his 81st birthday this year, and no doubt still would be delivering his messages from pulpits and podiums across the globe.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church
454 Dexter Ave. Montgomery, AL 36104
Sunday and Monday: closed to tours, open to all for worship services
The Dexter Parsonage Museum
309 South Jackson St.
Montgomery, Alabama 36103
Sunday and Monday: closed to tours
In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com