The Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church was founded in 1877 in a slave trader’s pen, located on Dexter Avenue (formerly Market Street). On January 30, 1879, the Church’s trustees purchased a lot (50' by 110') for $270.00 on the corner of Dexter Avenue and Decatur Streets, where the current church is located. A small wood-frame building located on the lot was used for worship service and educational purposes. The current red-brick building was constructed between 1883 and 1889. The Church was designated a national historic landmark on June 3, 1974, and Montgomery added the church to its list of historic sites on July 13, 1976.
The Church’s first name - the Second Colored Baptist Church - was later changed to Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, when Market Street became Dexter Avenue in honor of Andrew Dexter, founder of the city. In 1978, the name was changed to Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, in memory of its twentieth pastor, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Church has a long history of community service. On October 3, 1887, the first registration of students for Alabama State University (then the Alabama Colored Peoples University) was held in the lower unit of the church. Over the years, it has served the community through the use of its facilities - meeting place for many civic, educational and religious groups - and its human resources. The initial Civil Rights activity in modern Montgomery - The Montgomery Bus Boycott in the 1950's - was directed by Dr. King from his office in the lower unit of the church.
In 1980, artist and Dexter deacon John W. Feagin, painted a 10' by 47' mural at the church. The mural depicts scenes of Dr. King’s journey from Montgomery to Memphis. It reflects the segregated facilities of the era, as well as the struggles, sorrows, prejudices, and personalities of the era. Beginning with the bus boycott, it traces the long and tedious journey begun under Dr. King’s leadership.
Thousands of national and international tourists come annually to the Church to be inspired by and educated on the role of the Church and Dr. King in the Montgomery Bus Boycott.