Imagine a young child running up the steps of a spacious Victorian home on a humid summer day to join his family for supper. Picture a boy sitting in the parlor struggling with his piano lessons. Envision him walking two blocks to attend Sunday church services with his family. Martin Luther King, Jr. did this and much more as a child in Atlanta. When you climb the steps of his boyhood home, pass through the doors of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, or walk past the preserved homes on Auburn Avenue, you learn how King's childhood and his family's prominence as community leaders shaped his own religious and political beliefs. By stepping back in time you begin to understand the journey that led him to organize the Montgomery bus boycott, deliver an impassioned speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, earn Time magazine's Man of the Year honors in 1963, and garner a Nobel Peace Prize.
The site honors the full circle of King's life. After King's assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1968, when he was only 39, his family brought him home to lay his body to rest. His tomb remains in a site near the King Center, which also houses the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, founded by his widow, Coretta Scott King. As her recent death reminds us, the generation that struggled to create a truly free society is slowly passing away. National sites such as the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site play an important role in preserving this history to inspire future generations.