The eyes of football fans are on Atlanta this weekend as the city hosts Super Bowl LIII, but even if you don’t make the big game, the city is worth a visit, especially in February, for Black History Month.
Many of the landmarks associated with the civil-rights movement are part of Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn Historic District, a center of African-American residential and commercial life in the city since the early 20th century.
At the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park, there is the two-story house on Auburn Avenue where the civil-rights leader was born on Jan. 15, 1929, and where he spent the first 12 years of his life. When it is open, there are free, 30-minute tours led by a park ranger, that are limited to 15 people at a time, and spots are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.
Also, visitors can take a self-guided tour of the Ebenezer Baptist Church.
Completed in 1922, the church where King and his father and grandfather preached was the spiritual home of many in the Sweet Auburn community.
The church has been carefully restored to the way it looked in the 1960s, when King was co-pastor with his father.
Afterward, one can visit the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, where tourists can pay their respects to the civil rights leader at his burial place and that of his wife, Coretta Scott King. Also tour the center’s exhibits and walk through the grounds, including the International World Peace Rose Garden.
Other landmarks of Atlanta’s African-American history include the Herndon Home, an elegant Classical Revival mansion that’s open for tours.
Alonzo Herndon, a philanthropist and leader in the city’s black business community, built the house in 1910 using African-American craftsmen. Herndon rose from slavery to found one of the country’s most successful black businesses, the Atlanta Life Insurance Company.
Walking through Atlanta’s High Museum, the leading art museum in the Southeast, is a great way to spend an afternoon learning about the region.
An exhibit on Southern decorative arts of the 19th century, through Aug. 4, displays quilts, ceramics, basketry and furniture made by traditional methods handed down through the generations, including important works by black artisans.
Visitors will also find numerous works by African and African-American artists throughout the museum.
The Atlanta History Center — with exhibits as varied as railroads and the making of Atlanta to the enduring place of barbecue on the American table — is a good place to soak up some Southern culture.
One of the city’s newest attractions, the Center for Civil and Human Rights, in downtown Atlanta, opened in 2014.
The center’s exhibits connect the American civil-rights movement to human-rights movements around the world today.
Current exhibits include a look at athletes who have become catalysts for change and items from the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection, such as drafts of some of King’s famous speeches, his college transcripts and correspondence with leaders like President John F. Kennedy.