Six Cities to Explore Martin Luther King’s History

Lists: From Atlanta to Washington, D.C., Larry Bleiberg highlights the must-see places where the civil rights leader lived and made history

Memphis, Tennessee

As King had predicted, he never lived to see the country’s racial wounds healed. Visit the motel room where he was gunned down.

King seemed to realize he would not see his journey to the end. In a speech on April 3, 1968, he alluded to the possibility of his death in his “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top” speech.

The next day he was assassinated. The world was shocked when James Earl Ray allegedly shot King on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. No civil-rights traveler should miss the place where King’s life came to an end.

The assassination site is carefully preserved at the National Civil Rights Museum. Visitors can spend most of the day here, absorbing the detailed exhibits of African-Americans’ struggle for equality. Equally absorbing are the displays tied to the assassination. King’s motel room, number 306, is preserved, as is the adjacent guesthouse, where James Earl Ray allegedly shot King through a bathroom window.

This story first appeared at

Larry Bleiberg is the creator of Based in Birmingham, Alabama, he served on a Pulitzer Prize team, and was honored for producing the best newspaper travel section in North America. He has been published around the world, and his work has been cited in volumes as varied as "The Everything Creative Writing Book" and "The Dangerous World of Butterflies."

2 Comments for Six Cities to Explore Martin Luther King’s History

daniel 01.19.10 | 2:04 AM ET

I would add Chicago to this list, arguably the site of his greatest failure.

Larry Bleiberg 01.20.10 | 11:02 AM ET

Good suggestion. King said that he had never seen resistance like he had in Chicago. Said it was worse than anything he had seen in the Deep South. The Chicago Tribune just ran a good overview, including video:

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