Civil Rights Legacy

Explore Atlanta’s role in the Civil Rights movement

Watch “Atlanta Civil Rights” overview presented by historian and author Dr. Karcheik Sims-Alvarado

Where the Civil Rights Movement Was Built

In the early 1960s, Atlanta became the cultural catalyst for the civil rights movement where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis and many more leaders grew the movement nationally. While civil rights efforts predate the city’s involvement, activists quickly found their spiritual center within Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn district, making it home to much of civil rights history. Segregation, perseverance and achievement led to affluent African-Americans building businesses and homes on Auburn Avenue, once dubbed as the “richest Negro street in the world.” Others moved to Cascade Heights, literally breaking down walls to become one of the city’s richest neighborhoods for Blacks.

Atlanta’s civil rights legacy lives on in areas such as Cascade Heights and Southwest Atlanta, Sweet Auburn and Atlanta’s Eastside and throughout the city. Visit Black-owned businesses, shops and restaurants in these dynamic neighborhoods. And because many restaurants from the civil rights era served as the meeting grounds for organizers, they are an important part of the movement and a great way to experience a taste of history today.

The city of Atlanta is the embodiment of Southern hospitality, sophistication and progress. Atlanta’s progressive character combined with its civil rights legacy creates a city determined to honor the past as it builds the future. As former activist and UN Ambassador Andrew Young said, “You almost cannot escape an education in American history and in particularly, Southern civil rights history. It’s everywhere you go.”

The King Center in Atlanta, GA
The King Center. Credit: @kentwjohnson Kent W. Johnson

Civil Rights Landmarks

Discover Atlanta’s rich history directly by exploring  historic sites, landmarks and museums including the top-rated National Center for Civil and Human Rights. Influential African-American churches such as the famed Ebenezer Baptist Church where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once preached messages of peace and unity. Historically black colleges and universities at Atlanta University Center include Morehouse College, Spelman College and Clark Atlanta University where many leaders and organizers – past and present – laid the foundation for this movement that moved the nation. Take a tour or DIY with a self-guided civil rights itinerary for a full experience.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birth home
Dr. King’s birth home is part of Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park

Events Celebrating Civil Rights and Black History

Annual events and things to do during the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and Black History Month commemorate the achievements of African-Americans throughout history and celebrate cultural events today. 

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