Light streams through the stained glass windows of Ebenezer Baptist Church, illuminating the altar where Martin Luther King, Jr. was baptized as a child and served as pastor in adulthood. America’s most famous Civil Rights leader grew up in this church, and his legacy lives on inside its walls today, where the church serves as one of the foremost landmarks of the Civil Rights Movement in Atlanta and in the United States.
The church was founded in 1886 during the Reconstruction Era in the South after the Civil War, and by the mid-20th century, Martin Luther King, Sr. was leading the congregation from the pulpit on Sundays, setting the stage for his son to take over. MLK, Jr. joined his father as a co-pastor from 1960 until the fateful day of his death in 1968. His funeral, too, was held here. The church has since been restored to look as it did in the 1960s during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, and MLK Jr.’s voice greets visitors as they walk through the storied doors, his sermons and speeches playing on a loop on loudspeakers in the Church. Ebenezer Baptist Church still holds sermons today, a testament to the conviction and passion of the congregations that have kept this unique historical landmark alive for well over a century.
There are two sites attached to the name Ebenezer Baptist Church: the church itself and a historic memorial across the street. Visiting the church and/or attending sermons is free, but donations are appreciated. The church is located at 101 Jackson Street in Atlanta, Georgia, and is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Be sure to take a quick walk down Auburn Street to see Martin Luther King, Jr.’s former home as well.