Marking the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s Death in Atlanta - Pacific Standard

Marking the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s Death in Atlanta

Hours before a televised ceremony, the sites of King's crypt and church saw a steady stream of visitors.
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The civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. waves to supporters on August 28th, 1963, on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

The civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. waves to supporters on August 28th, 1963, on the Mall in Washington, D.C.

University and church bells across Atlanta, Georgia—where Martin Luther King Jr. grew up, and later co-led a small church—tolled 39 times on Wednesday evening, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of King's assassination. He was 39 when he died.

Pacific Standard visited the King National Historic Site, which is laid out along Atlanta's Auburn Avenue, in the afternoon before the site held a service. There was already a small crowd of visitors at the King Center, where marble crypts for King and his wife, Coretta Scott King, sit on an island in bright blue-tiled pool. Above the pool, water streams down along a set of low falls set with a phrase from the "I Have a Dream" speech: "until justice rolls down like water / and righteousness / like a mighty stream." 

Later in the evening, King's family would hold a ceremony here. Hours before the scheduled time, television news crews were already set up to record the moment.

One block east of the King Center, along Auburn Avenue, is the home where King was born and lived until he was 12. Immediately to the west is the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King's maternal grandfather, his father, and he all served as pastors. On Wednesday, numerous families squeezed in to see the small space. In the very last room, before the exit, Pacific Standard was charmed to find this pair of photo illustrations showing historically important black Americans:

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