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Powerful Martin Luther King Jr. Monuments to Visit

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If you’re looking for a way to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day, there are powerful monuments dedicated to the trailblazing civil rights leader throughout the country — and even a few around the world. Here are eight monuments, memorials, and museums honoring the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. that are worth a visit this holiday Monday — or any other day of the year.

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Martin Luther King Jr. Birth Home (Atlanta, Georgia)

Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Birth Home, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Credit: Raymond Boyd/ Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images

As part of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park, the birth home of the civil rights leader is a Queen Anne-style house that was bought by King’s grandfather in 1909. It was here that King’s mother, Christine, lived with her parents until her husband, Michael Luther King, moved in with them in 1926. Three years later, Christine gave birth to Martin Luther King Jr. in this home.

After King’s tragic assassination in 1968, his childhood home was turned into a historic museum. There are many King-related sites in Atlanta, Georgia, but King’s birth home is especially illuminating, as it provides valuable insight into the leader’s earliest years, and there are free tours provided on a first-come, first-served basis.

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The Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King Memorial (Allentown, Pennsylvania)

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. with his wife as they emerge from a court house.
Credit: Bettmann via Getty Images

The Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King Memorial is the only memorial in the world dedicated to both King and his wife, Coretta. Located in Allentown, Pennsylvania, at the intersection of Union Street and Martin Luther King Drive, the statue features the bronze figures of Martin and Coretta walking arm in arm.

Unveiled in 2011, the statue was designed by well-known civil rights artist Ed Dwight. A famous activist in her own right, Coretta Scott King continued the work of her husband long after his death, founding the King Center and campaigning for her husband’s birthday to become a federal holiday. In recognition of her efforts, it felt fitting for Dwight to include her image on a memorial dedicated to civil rights and world peace.

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Kelly Ingram Park (Birmingham, Alabama)

Ronald McDowell's sculpture stands in Kelly Ingram Civil Rights Memorial Park in Birmingham.
Credit: Raymond Boyd/ Michael Ochs Archives

A historic park in Birmingham, Alabama, Kelly Ingram Park was once a hotbed of activity for the civil rights movement, with rallies, demonstrations, and confrontations occurring in the park during the 1960s. As a result, it’s a prominent stop on the Civil Rights Trail, especially since it’s home to a striking commemorative statue of Martin Luther King Jr.

In addition to honoring Martin Luther King Jr., Kelly Ingram Park features sculptures of other civil rights heroes and artwork that depicts the dangers and hardships faced by those who supported desegregation during the 1960s. Visitors can take a guided tour of the park on their mobile phones in order to learn more about the struggle for racial equality, a cause shepherded by Martin Luther King Jr. and countless others.

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Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I Have a Dream Monument (Denver, Colorado)

The unveiling of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I Have A Dream monument in Denver, Colorado.
Credit: Andy Cross/ Denver Post via Getty Images

Located in Denver’s City Park, the I Have a Dream Monument is another piece of public art created by Ed Dwight. A longtime resident of Denver, Dwight was commissioned by the city to conceptualize and build a monument dedicated to King and other freedom fighters.

The art piece pays special homage to King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which he delivered to a crowd of thousands of people at the March on Washington in 1963. A year later, King was also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, another distinction that is noted on the monument. In addition to depicting King orating on a large pedestal, the statue also features other notable equality activists: Frederick Douglass, Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, and Sojourner Truth.

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National Civil Rights Museum (Memphis, Tennessee)

The Lorraine Motel in Memphis where Martin Luther King was assassinated in April 1968.
Credit: Ebet Roberts/ Redferns via Getty Images

Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. In a sad twist of fate, King chose to stay at the Lorraine Motel because the establishment was considered a safe haven for Black travelers passing through town. Since then, the former hotel has been converted into a National Civil Rights Museum, which educates visitors on the civil rights movement and the fight for racial justice.

The museum showcases hundreds of artifacts and more than 40 films, oral histories, and interactive media exhibits from more than five centuries of civil rights history. Visitors to the museum can also stop by Room 306, the same room where King stayed, for a somber reminder of where the civil rights leader spent his final few hours.

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Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial (Washington, D.C.)

The sun rise at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the anniversary of King's assassination.
Credit: Chip Somodevilla/ Getty Images News via Getty Images

Standing 30 feet high, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington D.C.’s West Potomac Park is both imposing and powerful. Installed in 2011, the monument took literal inspiration from one of King’s quotes: “With this faith, we will be able to hew out of a mountain of despair, a stone of hope.”

Visitors enter the memorial by walking through the “Mountain of Despair” in order to understand the struggles faced by King and so many others. Throughout the memorial, King’s powerful words are inscribed into stone for visitors to read, contemplate, and remember. Upon reaching the monument depicting King’s figure, the memorial portrays him as a “Stone of Hope” carved from the “Mountain of Despair,” in order to convey a sense of victory in his fight for racial justice.

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Westminster Abbey (London, United Kingdom)

Statues of Grand Duchess Elizabeth of Russia, Martin Luther King & Oscar Romero At Westminster
Credit: Tim Graham/ Hulton Archive via Getty Images

Little known to many, Martin Luther King Jr. has been honored on the side of one of the world’s most famous churches: Westminster Abbey in London, England. Along with nine other famous figures, King was chosen to be memorialized at Westminster Abbey due to his message of peace and equality.

Located near Westminster Abbey’s west entrance, a figure of King preaching in his robes is part of a section called the Modern Martyrs. Each of the 10 statues depicts a famous figure who suffered from oppression or was persecuted as a result of his or her faith. King’s statue stands near the center of these figures, between St. Oscar Romero (a minister from El Salvador) and Grand Duchess Elizabeth (a Russian Grand Duchess), both of whom were fearless leaders who fought for human rights.

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Martin Luther King Plaza (Pensacola, Florida)

Aerial View of Pensacola Beach in Florida where the Martin Luther King Plaza is also located.
Credit: Jeremy Woodhouse/ Photodisc via Getty Images

This impressive bust of Martin Luther King Jr. can be found in a Pensacola, Florida, plaza dedicated to the famed civil rights leader. The base of the bust is inscribed with an excerpt from King’s acceptance speech for his Nobel Peace Prize: “Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”

Created by Ayokunle Odeleye, a sculptor and art professor from Atlanta, the piece was unveiled in 1993. Odeleye, who has created several famous works throughout the country, consulted with King’s daughter, Yolanda King, to ensure that this monument would accurately depict her father’s likeness. Years after its installation, the monument is often used as the site of peaceful protests, in addition to being the home base for Pensacola’s MLK Day celebration.

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