On the third Monday of January each year, the United States pays tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., the voice and leader of the Civil Rights Movement. Travelers won’t have a hard time finding traces of MLK’s cause all throughout the southern United States.
But Montgomery, the capital city of Alabama, lays claim to a number of notable Martin Luther King sites — places where he lived, preached, and is forever remembered. While Montgomery seldom makes lists of must-see cities, the capital is worth the trip to the middle of Alabama (cheap domestic flights or not). Known mostly for being where Rosa Parks famously refused to give up her seat on a bus, the time Martin Luther King, Jr. spent in Montgomery can also still be felt by following this itinerary through town.
See where MLK preached at the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church
You can almost hear the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. pouring out from the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church. It was from a perch in this church in Montgomery that he took the reigns of the Civil Rights Movement. The simple church is also where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. first preached as a young pastor. The site offers guided tours, lending a look at the historic pulpit from which he spoke, a mural depicting his civil rights battle, and a peek at his pastoral office.
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Visit MLK’s Home in Montgomery at the Dexter Parsonage Museum
Continuing the tour of Montgomery in Dr. King’s eyes, visitors can next head to his former home at the Dexter Parsonage Museum. King lived in the white bungalow from 1954 to 1960. You can tour the home and see its interior hailing from the mid-1950s, when MLK lived here. In addition, there’s also a Garden of Reflection in the back of the house, a fine place to reflect on the teachings of the civil rights leader. The historic home served as the residence to 12 pastors of the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church.
Remember at the Civil Rights Memorial and Center
Visitors remember King’s cause and the causes of others who died during the Civil Rights Movement at the Civil Rights Memorial and Center. The memorial sits just around the corner from the church where King preached. Designed by Maya Lin, the same designer of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Civil Rights Memorial is composed of a black granite table that records the names of those who died fighting for equality from the time of the Brown v. Board decision in 1954 to the assassination of MLK in 1968. The actual Civil Rights Memorial Center details the lives and causes of those Civil Rights Movement martyrs, and is a must-visit for those who catch a flight booking into Montgomery.
Make the Day Trip to Selma
About an hour’s drive from Montgomery, the small town of Selma is rich in civil rights history. It was from this point that a voting rights march was staged — a march to obtain the right to vote for African Americans. Visitors can retrace those supporters’ steps specifically on the Edmond Pettus Bridge. On this crossing, the supporters were tear-gassed and beaten by law enforcement officials. They couldn’t resume their march to Montgomery until weeks later. Ultimately, they would end up at the Alabama State Capitol where Martin Luther King delivered one of his most noteworthy speeches, one that is said to have spurred the passing of the Voting Rights Act. The 54-mile trail from Selma to Montgomery is considered a National Historic trail.