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Picture Martin Luther King Jr., and you likely imagine him leading marchers across Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, or speaking before a quarter million civil rights supporters on the mall in Washington D.C. But perhaps no place is more closely connected to King than Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta
“Let's just be the best versions of ourselves,” Mayor Kasim Reed told protesters, encouraging them to keep on exercising their constitutional rights “in the spirit of Dr. King.”
This 1963 home was a magnet for civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., Maynard Jackson, Andrew Young, and others.
Bowing his head in prayer, he takes a deep breath and begins to deliver familiar words in a voice that instantly transports the listener back in time. For the next five minutes, Stephon Ferguson recites, no, inhabits the 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech in a tone, diction, and cadence uncannily reminiscent of King’s own. So reminiscent, in fact, that it would almost be an insult to call Ferguson’s reenactment an impersonation.
The idea of an MLK monument, which would reference a line from his most famous speech, has become the subject of a fierce outcry among Confederate sympathizers and King’s contemporaries alike.
At the age of 17, during the following winter, I saw King’s first march in Albany. Despite pleas in the Albany Herald for its white readers to refrain from glorifying these “trouble-makers and outside agitators,” my father surprised me by inviting me to go downtown with him one Saturday morning to witness King’s first march.
Back in 2012, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn district to its list of the country’s “most endangered” historic places. Much bemoaning of Atlanta’s fondness for the wrecking ball followed—just as it had in 1992, the first time that the Trust sounded the alarm on the precarious status of one of the most influential locations in African American history.
This month, Tom Houck draws on his personal history and wide circle of friends with a new endeavor: Civil Rights Tours, Atlanta. Organized in partnership with Atlanta Movie Tours, it begins and ends at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.