A House of History: Ebenezer Baptist Church
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a masterful orator whose words rang out over the nation and the world, evoking hope and change. His role in the American civil rights movement may make him seem larger than life, but on any given Sunday from 1960 to 1968, he could be found practicing his calling by preaching to his congregation in his hometown. The same man who delivered “I Have a Dream” on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial also delivered Sunday sermons at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. One of the main attractions of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Historic Site, Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church is located in Atlanta’s iconic Sweet Auburn neighborhood not far from Dr. King’s boyhood home.
A Chronicle of Ebenezer Baptist Church
In 1929, Martin Luther King Jr. was born in his family’s home just a short walk from Ebenezer Baptist, where his father was pastor and his mother was the musical director. His grandfather, Daniel Williams, had been pastor at Ebenezer from 1894 to 1926. Dr. King spent his childhood in this neighborhood, part of a tight family with very special ties to Ebenezer Baptist.
Dr. King joined his father as co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1960. In this role, he tended the spiritual needs of his congregation with the same passion, dedication and energy he put into his civil rights work. His vision and ideals ripened with every sermon he delivered in that sanctuary, leading his congregation in faith and calling his nation’s conscience to task.
Honor and Tribute
April 9, 1968 was a day of national mourning. All eyes were on Atlanta for the two funerals of the great civil rights leader, the first of which was held at Ebenezer Baptist Church. Attending this private funeral were friends, family and dignitaries. Following the service, Dr. King’s coffin was carried by procession to Morehouse College, where a second, public funeral was held, and finally to South View cemetery where he was laid to rest, though he is now buried at the plaza between the King Center and Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Restored for the Future
As part of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park, a unit of the National Park Service, Ebenezer Baptist Church has been formally recognized as an important national landmark. For this reason, the National Park Service invested in its restoration in 2001, returning the sanctuary and fellowship hall to the way they looked when Martin Luther King Jr. was co-pastor with his father.
Heart of a Movement
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference under the leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. organized famous, historical civil rights protests beginning with the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. It’s no coincidence that Ebenezer Baptist Church was the location for the founding meeting of this respected organization. As such, it was the original center of the American civil rights movement.
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