Church where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Served as Co-Pastor Opens to Public after Multi-year Restoration
ATLANTA — Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today joined Bernice King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Dr. Christine King Farris, Dr. King's sister; Martin Luther King, III and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis to celebrate the completed restoration of Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church's Heritage Sanctuary and Fellowship Hall.
The church, where Dr. King served as co-pastor, was a focal point of the civil rights movement and is now part of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, managed by the department's National Park Service. In late 2007, the Heritage Sanctuary and Fellowship Hall were closed to the public for a major project to restore them to their 1960's appearance. Starting today, the public will be able to see the church's balcony, hardwood flooring, pews, pulpit, altar furniture, stained glass windows, baptismal pool and other interior structures as they were in their original form.
“Dr. King's legacy as leader of the civil rights movement had its spiritual roots at Ebenezer Baptist Church,” Salazar said. “Today, we have completed a restoration that returns Heritage Sanctuary and Fellowship Hall to the way they were in the 1960's, when Dr. King and his followers stirred the conscience of a nation and played an integral role in bending the arc of history toward justice and freedom.”
Ebenezer Baptist Church has a rich local history spanning more than one hundred years, but it was during the years of 1960-1968 when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. returned to Atlanta to co-pastor with his father, Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr., that it garnered the world's attention and played a critical role as a social, economic, and political institution in the civil rights movement.
“The National Park Service is honored to have been entrusted with the care of Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church's Heritage Sanctuary and Fellowship Hall and we applaud all who helped to make this restoration possible,” said NPS Director Jarvis. “We are proud to be a part of the Auburn Avenue community and to welcome visitors from across the street, the nation, and the world who come here to honor Dr. King's legacy.”
During the ceremony, Salazar presented an Honorary Park Ranger Award to Dr. Christine King Farris in recognition of her many contributions to the national historic site.
Since the beginning of park operations in 1980, Dr. Farris has been a primary source of information for the site and its interpretive programs. She has provided tours of Dr. King's Birth Home, Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church Heritage Sanctuary, and the King Center. She continues to assist park staff with VIP tours, advice and information.
“Dr. Farris has worked tirelessly to commemorate and educate others about her brother's great legacy,” Salazar said. “She provides a unique perspective as someone who grew up with him and stood with him during the civil rights movement. On behalf of all Americans, I am thankful for her matchless contributions to the memory of this great man.”
“It is with great excitement and pride that the National Park Service reopens the newly restored Heritage Sanctuary and Fellowship Hall to the public,” said Judy Forte, Superintendent, Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. “The structure as it appears now is not only beautiful but, because of its role in American History, it possesses an inspirational power that can once again be experienced by all who visit.”
The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site and Preservation District was established by Congress on October 10, 1980. It consists of more than 38 acres (13 federally owned) near downtown Atlanta. It includes 67 historic buildings, most built between 1890 and 1910. The preservation district surrounding the site includes nearly 230 historic structures.
For photos from the event, click here.