On March 30, 2–4:30 p.m., during the On Aging 2023 conference in Atlanta, there will be an off-site private bus trip to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park. Read below for what you may encounter and click here to register.
American History provides a foundation for learning how key social change events in society educate people on the importance of participating in social change and how democracy works. Dr. Martin Luther King’s participation in the Civil Rights movement is a historic event that changed the world as we know it. Dr. King’s participation in the experiment called democracy is one single event after the Civil War that created a road map to social change in America.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park (A National Park Service Unit) is one of the best places to learn about the life and legacy of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his dream of freedom, equality and social change. American history has been the litmus test for measuring success in society and in American culture.
Justice & Equity
The diverse neighborhood in which Dr. Martin Luther King was born and cultivated his vision of human equality is perfectly shared in the Sweet Auburn community where he grew up. The National Park Service has restored many of the neighboring buildings to reflect their appearances in the 1930s and 1940s—the period of Dr. King’s childhood. Visitors today can step into that era and imagine themselves walking with the residents, hearing the noise of this lively neighborhood, and experiencing what life was like in those tumultuous times.
There is still much work that needs to be done today to ensure that justice and equality continues for all groups. Dr. King’s message should resonate for groups promoting social justice, diversity, inclusion and healthy aging. Learning more about Dr. King’s journey should provide inspiration to those who may not feel like change can happen today.
Innovation & Social Impact
Dr. King was an innovative orator and his speeches provided insight regarding how all human beings have implicit value to the social experiment called democracy. Moreover, his message of freedom and non-violence had a lasting social impact that has enhanced messaging for gender and aging in the 21st Century. The social impact can only be noticed when society pauses to rest, reflect, and renew its thinking on social change that positively affects human relations.
‘The Sweet Auburn community was a part of the bustling city where African Americans forged strong community bonds.’
Connecting people, communities, American society and the world was a little different during Dr. King’s time, but it was effective. He used postmodern methods to reach people, government and the world, such as political meetings, public speaking, recorded speeches, television and radio. Today technology is more advanced, but the strategy is the same, to highlight key messages to improve lives. A visit to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park will inspire visitors to think critically about how to communicate their message, using history to guide messaging.
Health & Well-being
The health and well-being of any community are important to the overall health of society. A visit to Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park will affect visitors in a positive way. The park provides opportunities for self-reflection and renewal, but more importantly park staff will share how a young Martin Luther King, Jr. wanted to be of service to others and ultimately to the world.
The Sweet Auburn community was a part of the bustling city where African Americans forged strong community bonds. Black-owned businesses thrived, and black churches were places of joy and expression. Through the success of its residents, “Sweet Auburn” proved to young Martin that African Americans could achieve economic and cultural significance even in the face of legal segregation.
The lessons that Dr. King learned by living in the Sweet Auburn community remain relevant today, to individuals, and to organizations that have goals and dreams to make the world a better place. Again, history can be a good litmus test for finding new ways to ensure goals and dreams become reality. The issues and concerns of the 1930s thru the 1960s were similar to those of ASA today: “… the longevity economy, education and training opportunities across the life course, work and retirement structures, economic instability, healthcare costs and aging-in-community.”
The Greater Atlanta community has always valued its Civil Rights legacy. Today, Atlanta is home to very diverse organizations that share the Civil Rights story, but more importantly the American history of the Civil Rights story. As society welcomes future generations of visitors and first-time visitors to National Parks, it is important to know American history holistically. One stop, at one location will not give people what is needed to gain an understanding of the importance of Dr. King’s role in the Civil Rights movement. So, consider visiting multiple locations (see below) to gain your own perspective of our American history story.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park
- Martin Luther King, Jr. Birth Home
- The King Center
- Ebenezer Baptist Church
- APEX Museum
- Elbert P. Tuttle United States Court of Appeals Building
- Center for Civil and Human Rights
- The Carter Center
In deciding to visit Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park you will be learning how Dr. King’s personal story will connect you to his work in changing the world. It doesn’t matter what your age, race, ethnicity, gender or political affiliation, you can gain personal insight into the importance of participating in our democracy. Participating in the democratic process by voting, marching, speaking, and caring makes the world a better place. Change without violence from the imposed-upon groups enhances humanity.
Important links for Civil Rights and the King Center:
Reginald M. Tiller, DSL, is deputy superintendent at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park and previously has worked at the Charles Young Buffalo Soldier National Monument in Wilberforce, OH, and the William Howard Taft National Historic Site in Cincinnati, OH. He began his National Parks career at the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. Dr. Tiller served in the Army National Guard during Operation Desert Storm and teaches online courses for Bethel University (TN) in organizational management and criminal justice and in its MBA program on leadership, business strategy, ethics, & diversity.