Having failed to reach the Martin Luther King Jr. Historical Park due to a fear of being mugged, we decided to approach it via a different route. Husband assured me it would be safe, and we would turn around and abandon the walk if it wasn’t. As we hurried under urine-stinking flyovers and passed a burnt-out house, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with the idea. But we survived.
We were in Atlanta, one of the places we visited on our road-trip through Eastern America. In the Southern States, there are echoes of the slave trade, the plantations, the civil war. I was keen to visit the memorial of Martin Luther King Jr, a voice shouting for freedom and equality.
Opposite the memorial is a modern Ebenezer Church (King preached at the smaller, older, church, across the road). Outside is a statue of a slave. It’s the sort of sculpture that you want to spend a long time looking at—it speaks very clearly.
However, my thoughts were interrupted by a more audible voice speaking, booming over the road from the memorial. As we approached, I thought perhaps there was a rally in progress, but only a police woman stood there, guarding the monument. The voice came from speakers, and the voice was, I assume, from the past.
There were steps, with ML King quotations etched into them, a long pool of water flowed through the central area, with the tomb of MLK and his wife, Corrie, in the centre. The crypt is made of Georgia marble, and Dr King’s remains were placed there in 1970 (he was shot in 1968). I wonder what he would have thought about it.
To one side is The Eternal Flame—a metal firepit with a plaque explaining that the flame represents the eternal quest for freedom.
Behind the long pool, was an information centre/bookshop.
I was not expecting such a large, sophisticated, monument. I had thought we would happen upon the grave of Martin Luther King in a cemetery, a large stone, perhaps a statue. This memorial was big and flamboyant, certainly costly. If it represents the fight of the people, the hard-won struggle of black people in America to be treated as equals, then I understand. It needs to be significant. But if it is merely a monument to a man, even a great man, then I cannot help but feel that perhaps the money should have been directed towards the living, not the dead.
As we walked away, past the black man (colour matters here) in his wheelchair begging at the corner, past the numerous black men sleeping on the streets, I felt sad. Society has moved to a better place since we thought owning slaves was an okay thing to do. After slavery was abolished, segregation was also a horrible, unfair, system. But whether the changes have improved life for those individuals, whether all races are treated and see themselves as truly equal today is still uncertain in my mind.
We walked back, past the burnt-out house with the boarded-up neighbours, under the smelly fly-over, to our hotel. I was left feeling unsure about what, exactly, I had been to see.
I hope your day is interesting too. Thank you for reading.
Love, Anne x
Thank you for reading. If you enjoy my travel blogs, you will love my travel book: The Sarcastic Mother’s Holiday Diary. Available from an Amazon near you.