Established in 1968 by Coretta Scott King as “the official, living memorial dedicated to the advancement of the legacy” of Martin Luther King, Jr., the King Center is located in Atlanta’s historic Auburn district next to Ebenezer Baptist Church. Originally called the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Inc., the King Center houses the final resting place of Martin and Coretta Scott King. Its programming focuses on disseminating King’s philosophies of nonviolence and service to mankind, building international partners to further the “Beloved Community,” and overseeing various programs that use King’s name.
The King Center established several means to preserve King’s legacy for both historical and educational purposes. In 1968, the Library Documentation Project began collecting the records and recollections of activists during the civil rights movement under the guidance of Vincent Harding. The King Library and Archives at the King Center stores the result of this project, with over 14,000 pieces of King’s correspondence, extensive audiovisual documentation, oral histories, and records of many of the most involved organizations. Collections housed at the Library include the records of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the Congress of Racial Equality, and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.
The King Center spearheaded the campaign to petition Congress to pass legislation establishing the King National Holiday. Following a 1983 demonstration at the Lincoln Memorial commemorating the 20th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Congress passed legislation establishing the third Monday in January as a federal holiday to honor King. The King Center currently sponsors educational programs and encourages people to remember the holiday through service as “a day on, not a day off.”
In 1985, the King Center initiated the King Papers Project to further study and disseminate King’s philosophies and beliefs and to create educational materials regarding his life and the movements that he inspired.
By the early 1990s, the King Center had become one of Atlanta’s top tourist attractions, with more than 650,000 people visiting the physical site annually. Upon founding president Coretta Scott King’s retirement in 1995, Dexter King became the King Center’s president and CEO.
The King Center, http://www.thekingcenter.org (accessed April 2, 2018).