Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 15: A History of Nonviolence

King crypt.

The crypt of Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. My son tagged along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college. We’ve taken two trips by airplane, but are much happier when we’re the ones behind the wheel — charting our own course, making unplanned stops anytime we want, availing ourselves of slightly better meal options, and keeping or ruining our own schedule as dictated by circumstances or whims. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’d been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we aimed for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness. Before we went to D*C, there was the road trip to get there, and the good times to be had before the great times at the big show.

We visited the National Center for Civil and Human Rights the day before. We traveled to key locations in Birmingham and Montgomery on our 2015 vacation. We even checked out an African-American history museum in Baltimore in 2017. In light of our past experiences, we’d be unfathomably remiss if we visited Atlanta without paying respects to hometown hero and civil rights legend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tombs wider.

The crypt is in the middle of a reflecting pool leading up to Freedom Hall, comprising exhibits and an auditorium.

Dr. and Mrs. King’s final resting place is on the grounds of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, which in turn is part of Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park. Mrs. King founded the former in 1968 as a continuation of her husband’s work. Under a bill sponsored by contemporary civil rights activist Congressman John Lewis, which was signed into law by the President in 2018, the park surrounding the Center was thereby upgraded to National Historic Park status in 2018.

Several adjacent, relevant buildings were incorporated into the park along with The Center, which relocated to its current headquarters in 1981. In addition to the Kings’ final resting place and the outdoor plaza around them, the Center’s exhibit rooms contain numerous artifacts from the life of Dr. King and those whose works touched him or lifted him up.

Mighty Stream!

Leading up to the Center’s front doors, pool-width steps act as waterfalls and bear a familiar MLK quote.

glass hands and chains.

Art on the way in.

Stone of Hope!

A smaller-scale replica of The Stone of Hope, a statue at the MLK Memorial that’s been in Washington DC since 2011.

Coretta Scott King hardhat.

Hardhat worn by Mrs. King during the Center’s construction.

ceremonial robes.

A set of Dr. King’s ceremonial robes. Many a great preacher has their own.

cufflinks and tie clips!

I’ve owned the same tie clip since I was 19, and have never touched a cuff link, let alone owned one. Here as in many other matters, King puts me to shame.

MLK jackets and accessories!

Don’t even get me started on my lack of suits and other manly accessories. Just don’t.

Not pictured (due to persistent, annoying glass reflections enshrouding it) was one of the most eye-opening artifacts whose image remains burned into Anne’s memories in particular. Often when today’s writers revisit the life of a past figure, there’s a tendency to want to “humanize” them. 99% of the time that translates into devoting thousands of words to their sins as well as, if not more than, their accomplishments. To us it’s the littler, more mundane things that are humanize in a more engaging way…such as MLK’s old Wrangler denim jacket. We have never seen him photographed in anything less than business wear. There’s something about the idea of the reverend in a jeans jacket that bumps up against everything we’ve known and revered since grade school. I mean, it’s not like there were Rolling Stones patches on it, but still. A jeans jacket?

Gandhi painting!

The Center devotes an entire room to the life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (spelling variant copied from one display), one of King’s biggest influences, particularly in the areas of civil disobedience and nonviolence. This 1987 tribute was painted by Somnath Khosa.

Gandhi accessories.

Artifacts from Gandhi’s life prior to his assassination in 1948.

Nobel Peace Prize 1964!

King’s efforts and leadership won him the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize. In his speech he name-checked Gandhi and his tools of “the weapons of truth, soul force, non-injury, and courage.”

Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In 1977 President Jimmy Carter awarded King a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom.

MLK Grammy!

Also posthumous: Grammy Award Winner Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., nabbed in 1971 for his speech “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam”.

That Grammy Award-winning speech, for the curious:

For those at home who may be noticing a pattern: between our visits to the King Center and the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum, we learned Dr. King and President Carter were both born in Georgia, both played positive parts in the fight for civil rights, and both won a Nobel Peace Prize, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and at least one Grammy. Now we just need to know if King had a secretary named Carter and if Carter had a secretary named King.

Nonviolent Peace Prize!

The King Center in turn has its own award it bestows every year to appropriate qualifiers, the Martin Luther King Jr. Nonviolent Peace Prize.

kiddie quilt!

Beyond awards organizations, Dr. King has also received honors from millions of students and other admirers. One example of an outpouring of love: this quilt.

MLK quilt squares!

King’s life and works have plenty of memorable quotes and iconography to work with.

Isaiah 1-18!

Shout-out to one of the great verses in Scripture about sitting down and talking things through.

Coretta Scott King quotes!

Other touches around the Center grounds include the writ-large words of Mrs. King, no slouch in the inspirational department herself.

Eternal Flame + quote.

Like the gravesite of John F. Kennedy in DC, the Kings’ site has its own eternal flame.

Eternal Flame closeup!

Better view of the fire that burns brightly and never goes out.

To be continued…

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email sign-up for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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