Take A Walk In His Footsteps

If you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk, then crawl, but by all means, keep moving. – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Alanna Sobel & Rebecca WatsonNPF Blog
Stone monument depicting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. National Monument - NPS Photo / Volunteer Bill Shugarts

Every year, we come together as a nation to celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and honor his life and legacy with a national day of service. Walk in the steps of this civil rights leader and experience his story in our national parks year-round.

The history and preservation of our national parks are key to having meaningful conversations. National discourse is ever evolving and expanding to reflect on our past, engage in the present, and reimagine our future. The National Park Foundation (NPF), together with our partners, has been investing in the preservation of African American history and culture through national parks for nearly 20 years, the support of many projects that have expanded the preservation of and storytelling around Dr. King’s life and legacy.

Visit His Birthplace in Atlanta

Two-story yellow house with brown trim, Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park

Birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr. at Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park

Shutterstock

Known simply as “M.L.” by his family, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s early years in Atlanta are preserved and honored at Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park. Stop by the visitor center to pick up a map of the park, which includes the home in which he was born and lived until he was 12, the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church where he worshipped and preached, and The King Center, where Dr. and Mrs. Coretta Scott King are laid to rest.

In 2018, NPF facilitated the purchase of Dr. King’s birth home and its transfer to Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park. As part of NPF’s Women in Parks initiative, NPF also supported a new outdoor exhibit at the park honoring and exploring Coretta Scott King’s incredible life and lasting contributions to the civil rights movement. In 2020, as part of a multi-year grant, NPF provided the funding for staff, materials, and administrative expenses to stabilize and rehabilitate both the birth home and life home of Dr. King. 3D scanning of the birth home, land survey and assessment, as well as a mechanical system evaluation took place, ensuring that the buildings will be properly restored to welcome present and future generations of visitors.

Climb the Steps on Which He Spoke

An aerial view of the marble Lincoln Memorial. Several visitors walk up its stairs

Lincoln Memorial

NPS Photo / United States Park Police

In 1963, Dr. King was one of the organizers for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and on August 28 of that year, he delivered his legendary “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. A year later, Dr. King received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work championing civil rights and social justice. Stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, looking out into the reflecting pool and the distant Washington Monument and read or listen to his “I Have a Dream” speech. The spot on which he spoke is engraved to mark this iconic and defining moment in the civil rights movement and United States’ history.

Commemorate His Iconic March

A view of the Edmund Pettus Bridge over the Alabama River in Selma, Alabama

Edmund Pettus Bridge, Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail

National Park Service

In March 1965, Dr. King and other civil rights activists marched 54 miles from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, to bring attention to voter registration in the area. The Selma to Montgomery marches, one of which became known as “Bloody Sunday” after an attack on the non-violent protesters, garnered national attention and outrage and ultimately led to the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Drive the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail and stop by the Selma and Lowndes Interpretative Centers, which feature exhibits on the march.

In 2020, in partnership with the Fund II Foundation, NPF supported a new interactive and immersive exhibit along the trail, designed to use oral histories and historical narratives to bring the iconic event to life. The new exhibit, located in the Montgomery Interpretative Center, will allow visitors a new way to interact with the trail and its history.

Honor His Legacy at His Memorial

Quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. etched into a marble wall, illuminated at nighttime

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Shutterstock

Dedicated in 2011, the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial is the first memorial on the National Mall to honor a citizen activist, not a United States president or war hero, as well as the first to honor an African American individual. The memorial is a place to contemplate his non-violent philosophy striving for freedom, justice, and equality. Read his quotes engraved in the memorial’s walls, taken from Dr. King’s speeches, sermons, and writings. 

This is just the beginning – many park units across the country honor the contributions Dr. King and other trailblazing leaders have made to our nation’s multifaceted history. Our national parks give us a chance to learn about our past and reflect on those whose visions carried us to the present. By supporting dynamic educational programs, professional development opportunities, the rehabilitation of historic sites, and the preservation – both physically and digitally – of irreplaceable artifacts and places, such as those which reflect Dr. King’s life and legacy, NPF and our partners are dedicated to increasing access to places, cultural resources, and stories that help all people gain a deeper understanding of the contributions of African Americans. Many other parks honor the stories and legacies of African Americans – we invite you to explore these places and Stand Where Heroes Stood.

Preserving History, Inspiring Generations
National parks embody the essence of a nation forged by the powerful forces of nature, the chronicles of conflict, a spirit of innovation, and an enduring vision of democracy for all. Join us in supporting programs and projects that continue this important work.

Start a Conversation


CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Stay Inspired
Connect with the parks you love. Sign up to receive the latest NPF news, information on how you can support our national treasures, and travel ideas for your next trip to the parks. Join our community.