Georgia has been the birthplace and epicenter for some of the most prolific Civil Rights leaders in the history of the movement, with Atlanta being its thriving capital. From the King family to newer additions to our exciting and forever-developing story, keep scrolling for seven influential leaders from the Civil Rights Movement with roots here in the ATL.
1. Martin Luther King Jr.
Of course, we couldn’t comply this list without the inclusion of Martin Luther King Jr., who solidified himself as the undisputed leader of the Civil Rights Movement throughout his life and career. Born and raised on the historic Auburn Avenue, which is now part of an unmissable Historic & National Park in the heart of the A, King managed to be awarded with a Nobel Peace Prize, as well as go down in history with his iconic I Have A Dream speech. Click here for a round-up of things to do on MLK Day, including visiting King’s birth home.
2. Coretta Scott King
Both Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King are buried at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park here in Atlanta. Coretta played a significant role in making MLK Day a national holiday and obviously succeeded. Following her husband’s death, his legacy lived on through Coretta’s vital work founding the King Center here in Atlanta, plus so much more. Visiting The King Center is a great way to honor Coretta’s legacy, which features exhibitions on MLK related photos & artifacts.
3. John Lewis
The late Congressman for Atlanta served our vibrant city from 1987 until 2020, the year he passed away. Working tirelessly as a civil rights activist throughout his life, his tremendous efforts translated perfectly into politics and lengthy career. You can see the iconic John Lewis mural at 219 Auburn Ave. NE, or check out Freedom Park during his birthday month of February, when thousands of daffodils will bloom in his honor.
4. Shirley Franklin
Shirley Franklin was not only Atlanta’s first-ever Black female mayor, but the first of any major city. Her political career was devoted to solving those notorious issues faced by the ever-growing ATL, achieving great accomplishments throughout. A great way to honor her legacy is checking out the Atlanta BeltLine, a program that Fanklin supported from the get-go and has come so far since her political departure.
5. Andrew Young
Andrew Young, like many of these inspirational people on this list, was a person of many titles. Starting off as a pastor, his career saw him flourish as a civil rights activist, congressman, UN ambassador, mayor, and philanthropist. Founded and served for several organizations fighting for change within public policy, he was A-Town’s mayor from 1982 until 1990. You can check out a statue in his honor Downtown at Walton Springs Park.
6. Pearl Cleage
The renowned playwright, novelist, poet and political activist has been an ATLien since 1969. Known for her feminist point-of-view, her extensive collection of work has been admired, analyzed and studied since her rise to fame. Her works delve into issues like racism and sexism, particularly concerned with her identity as an African-American woman. She also spoke out on things like women’s rights and HIV/AID’s.
7. Ralph Abernathy Sr.
Working closely with Martin Luther King Jr. throughout his life, Abernathy was a Baptist minister who became a civil rights leader alongside his close friend The King. His renowned accomplishments include addressing the United Nations about world peace, as well as being an advisory committee member of the Congress on Racial Equality.