Travel, History, Legacy: MLK at the Atlanta Airport

Across the United States and in other parts of the world, there are roads and streets, schools and community centers, colleges and church buildings and statues which honor Doctor Martin Luther King, Junior. By the power of his ideas, his oratory, and his courage, Dr. King inspired those who work for social justice, civil rights, and peace during his lifetime, and his legacy of inspiration is in part carried on by these memorials and honors. His life, his work, and his philosophies are studied in colleges, and in his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia, The King Center remembers his life and encourages those who continue to think about and practice non violence. In Atlanta, too, the places where Martin Luther King lived are now national historic sites administered by the National Park Service.

It is a quieter and perhaps less well known remembrance of Dr. KIng that I always find most moving, though.

In concourse E of the Hartsfield Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia, there are panels telling. briefly, the story of Dr. King’s life. There is the small radio he used to carry with him to listen to news reports while he participated in freedom walks. There are photos of him as a small child, and there are the robes he wore when he was presented with the Nobel Peace Prize. There is the suit Dr. King wore to a meeting with President Lyndon Johnson

There is a pair of his glasses, notes for a speech, and books he read.
There are photographs, too. of Martin Luther King playing ball with his son and eating dinner with his wife and children.

This is King the leader, yes, the preacher, the man of international stature who took risks for social justice. More than that, this is King the man, with photographs and items which offer a glimpse in to the human dimension of his life and just what it was he risked.

It is not a flashy exhibit, making its points indirectly. The panels are just near the stairs opening into concourse E, right by the Interfaith Chapel. Until recently, concourse E at Atlanta was the main arrival and departure point for international flights — many still do come and go from that part of Hartsfield Jackson, as do flights from all across the US — and there are other sometimes changing exhibits in that area. Word is that the Martin Luther King exhibit, which is comprised of material from the King Center, may be expanded and enlarged.

That will be fine, if it happens. It has stood as I’ve told of it here through many years of my time passing through the Atlanta airport. As it stands, it is a quiet sharing of the work of a great leader, and a reminder of and tribute to Martin Luther King, Junior, the man. That’s enough.

You may also wish to learn about

The book The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement

Caroline Herring’s songs of the civil rights years and the contemporary American south

Sweet Honey in the Rock’s songs of civil rights, social justice, and more A Tribute: Live! Jazz at Lincoln Center

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