Preserving Dr. King’s Legacy


As I walked through the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, the energy on the grounds carried the weight of recent events that have shaken the very foundation of this historic community on Auburn Ave. My daughter and I made an impromptu visit to the King Center and Dr. King’s birth home site in Atlanta, GA, in the aftermath of a failed arson attempt, an act that struck not just at the physical structure but at the core of a movement that defined an era.

The shocking revelation that the suspect behind the attempted arson was African American added a layer of complexity to the situation. It forced me to confront the uncomfortable truth that even within our own community, there can exist forces that seek to erase the symbols of progress and unity.

As we stood before the chain-link fence that now surrounds Dr. King’s birth home, I couldn’t help but contemplate the potential consequences if the fire had been successful. With Martin Luther King Jr. Day just around the corner, the loss would have been more than physical; it would have been an assault on the very soul of a movement that fought for equality and justice.

The attempted arson serves as a stark reminder that the struggle for civil rights is ongoing, and the symbols of that struggle are not immune to threats. Dr. King’s powerful words, “A man that hasn’t found anything worth dying for, isn’t fit to live,” which I chose as my senior yearbook quote years ago, resonates with renewed significance. The attempted destruction of Dr. King’s birth home reinforces the notion that his legacy is something worth preserving at all costs. Some might consider it trivial, but being able to see and tour his birth home, church, and burial site as his speeches echo for blocks both in and out of the exhibits places you back in time, and that feeling is indescribable. 


My daughter and I first visited the King Center together during her class field trip in 2015. The energy of that day, surrounded by fellow students and families, was powerful. Returning on a day less crowded allowed for a more intimate connection with this historic site, emphasizing the personal responsibility we all share in preserving its legacy.


However, the stark reality is that the birth home tours have been suspended until 2025. The need for remodeling and increased security measures is a testament to the vulnerability of these historic landmarks. The chain-link fence and security patrols, while disheartening, are necessary safeguards to protect this beacon of the Civil Rights Movement.

As we navigate through these challenging times, the attempted arson serves as a call to action. We must actively work to protect and preserve the symbols of our shared history, ensuring that the lessons of the past continue to inspire and guide us toward a more just and equitable future.


This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, let us not only honor the man and his dream but also stand united against any forces that seek to extinguish the flame of progress. Dr. King’s legacy is not just a chapter in history; it’s a living testament to the ongoing fight for justice and equality. Together, we must be the guardians of that legacy, ensuring that the dream lives on for generations to come.