After leaving Tybee Island and Savannah, it was time to travel to Atlanta, Georgia on day five of the dirty south road trip. I was super psyched to be in Atlanta to tour Centennial Park, The World of Coke, Sweet Auburn Avenue, and the Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. centre.
Centennial Olympic Park is positioned in the middle of downtown Atlanta. It was erected as part of the infrastructure advancements for the 1996 Olympics hosted by the city of Atlanta. The wide-open 22-acre space appeared extremely welcoming, but because of the current COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, it was sealed to visitors. I was able to grab a couple of drone shots of the deserted park as it stood waiting for people at the end of the pandemic.
Considering Centennial Olympic Park didn’t have the customary carnival atmosphere, we elected to stop by the world-famous World of Coca-Cola. But, upon arrival, the tours were already completed for the day. That launched a jaunt to the King Center just a 30-minute trek away.
The Trek: Sweet Auburn Avenue
On the march to the King Center, we blundered upon Auburn Avenue. Clustered along a brief mile and a half of Auburn Avenue, the Sweet Auburn Historic District exhibits the antiquity, culture and accomplishments of Atlanta’s African Americans.
Similar to other black neighbourhoods throughout the United States, Sweet Auburn’s achievement was intricately bound to the domestic patterns forced on African Americans throughout the early 20th century–the outcome of qualificatory laws in southern states which imposed segregation of the races, known as Jim Crow laws.
The photograph on the left above bears the names of the businesses on Auburn Avenue that were demolished when the overpass was erected through the community.
Sweet Auburn was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976. Nevertheless, similar to countless other inner-city neighbourhoods, Sweet Auburn fell prey to the reduction of investment, crime and abandonment, compounded by highway viaduct construction that divided it in two. In 1992 the National Trust for Historic Preservation acknowledged that it was one of America’s 11 Most Threatened Historic Districts.
One of the many significant commercial buildings within the [Sweet Auburn] district is the Atlanta Life Insurance Company. The second-largest black insurance company in the United States, Atlanta Life Insurance was founded in 1905 by Alonzo Herndon, a former slave from Walton County, Georgia. The company steadily grew so that by 1910, there were more than 42 branch offices.Source: National Park Service
The stroll along Auburn Avenue was sentimental and disheartening because one could visualise the vibrancy of the community in years gone by but I was reminded of the modern-day truth with the various boarded-up storefronts.
The King Center
Martin Luther King, Jr., was born in a two-story Queen Anne style house at 501 Auburn Avenue, in Sweet Auburn.
One significant advantage of travelling during a pandemic is the deficiency of mobs at historic monuments. Prime season to appreciate the location without the murmur and intrusion of other vacationists. Opposite from the church at 449 Auburn is the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Inc., which advances King’s legacy and work. At the King Center, one could sit in silence and experience the calming call of Coretta Scott King’s voice over the speaker near the eternal flame in the garden.
The Ebenezer Baptist church is a three-story red brick construction detailed in stone and has several groupings of stained glass windows. The building of the church began in 1914 and was completed in 1922. The church is where Martin Luther King, Jr. preached with his dad.
Finally, before leaving the King Center and other sites I was able to engage with a local poet to hear his spoken word compilation about Martin Luther King, Jr. and Hotlanta.
Check back for the last and final installment of The Dirty South Road Trip.