Welcome to the Dexter Avenue King Legacy Foundation
Building On The Legacy Beyond Borders
The Dexter Avenue King Legacy Foundation is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization founded in December 2016 to preserve the legacy of the history of Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, the Dexter Parsonage Museum, and the parts that pertinent African Americans played in the history. The Foundation goal is to continue to preserve buildings and artifacts, and help inspire and engage the present and future generations. Because of this, the Foundation is launching the Historical Opportunities Preservation Efforts (HOPE) Project for Dexter Avenue buildings and artifacts. Our goal is to raise $25,000,000, within five (5) years to assist in preserving the historical sites and add new technology for our tourists and website visitors. We have made some great strides and still have more to do to accomplish our mission. We need your support to help us meet our goal for the HOPE Project. All donations are tax deductible and sincerely appreciated.
The history of the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church and the Dexter Parsonage Museum (Dr. Martin Luther King’s home while a pastor at Dexter Avenue), are narratives having elements common to the dominant black experience in America. These buildings hold exceptional importance for the Civil Rights Movement in the 20th century and the broader struggle for human rights throughout the world. Dexter Avenue and the Parsonage are nationally significant sites that are part of the U.S. Civil Rights Trail because of Dr. King’s association with the Civil Rights Movement.
The history of Dexter Avenue buildings presently attracts more than 37,000+ tourists from all over the world each year. Tourists are able to walk in the footsteps of the heroic foot soldiers and learn from guides what their lives were like as they overcame adversity.
Because of the rich history, in 1974, the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church was designated a National Historic Landmark and the Parsonage was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982.
The Dexter Avenue King Legacy Foundation’s mission is to:
- Preserve and revitalize the historic memory of the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, the Dexter Parsonage Museum/Garden for Reflections, the Dexter King Memorial Legacy Center, Vernon’s Place, and the Interpretive Center.
- Foster not only a sense of place; but, also help to build an engaged community for residents and visitors alike through a comprehensive and continual system of education and engagement.
- Keep all buildings and sites (and contents) well maintained.
- Preserve all collections that are accessible through exhibits and research, and continue all educational programs designed to engage diverse members of the community so they will engender a sense of place that connects one generation to another.
- Continue to foster partnerships and educational opportunities that enhance, preserve and promote the heritage of the Dexter Avenue Legacy.
- Prepare global citizens to create a more just, humane and peaceful world using Dr. King’s nonviolent philosophy and methodology.
To make a donation or see the Historical Timeline, please scroll down.
~1948–Dr. Martin L. King, Jr., was ordained a minister at Ebenezer Baptist Church.
~1953–Dr. King and his family moved to Montgomery, Alabama.
~1954–Dr. King became the new pastor for Dexter Avenue.
~1955–Dr. King and Rosa Parks were the key players in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. When Dr. King became the first president of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA), this lead to facilitating the boycott of public buses, which responded to long-standing, unequal seating policies and then the December 1 arrest of Rosa Parks. Black social activists in Montgomery felt that the arrest of Parks, the local chapter secretary of the NAACP, was a viable case on which to build a major protest. Within days of Parks’ arrest, Montgomery’s black community rallied and imposed a nearly full boycott of the city’s buses.
~1956–The Montgomery Bus Boycott heralded a new direction and cohesion for the Civil Rights struggle, and it also launched Dr. King into the national spotlight. As president of the MIA, Dexter Avenue’s pastor rose to the challenge and provided able leadership for the boycott, ultimately emerging as the nation’s preeminent Civil Rights leader. His oratorical skills were particularly brilliant, full of confidence, inspiration, and intellect, having been undoubtedly honed with the Sunday sermons that he delivered at Dexter. As he rose in visibility during the boycott, however, he became a target of white anger. This anger quickly escalated from late-night telephone threats to a bomb set off on the Parsonage’s front porch on the evening January 30, while his wife, infant daughter, and a friend were at home. Although no one was physically hurt, the dangers of the boycott as well as King’s position as its public face became acutely known, conditions that foreshadowed his assassination twelve years later.
~1956–The boycott lasted over a year, officially terminating on December 21.
~1955–1956– Dexter Avenue Baptist Church was one of the places where black leaders gathered for the duration of the boycott—Dexter Avenue’s members were actively involved in its structure and operation. Black churches quickly became rallying points and the black ministers and their churches made the Montgomery Bus Boycott the success that it was through their participation in the boycott and the opening up of their buildings for meetings and logistics. Even while Dr. King was increasingly absent from Dexter, the congregation never wavered in its commitment to its pastor as the scope and purpose of his life dramatically changed. This support reflected dedication not just to Dr. King, but to the Civil Rights Movement as well. The minds and hearts at Dexter Avenue had favorably inclined toward the church’s participation in the social activism of the Civil Rights Movement. In its efforts to serve the spiritual and communal needs of its current members, Dexter moved purposefully forward with the knowledge of its significant place in the history of Civil Rights in America as well as its more representative history as a black congregation in the South.
~1956–The U.S. Supreme Court affirmation, in November, of the lower court decision in Browder v. Gayle that ended the segregation of the buses, which in turn ended the boycott a month later. The boycott came to exemplify the power of an African-American community to mobilize and successfully resist and defeat segregation. In the wake of the bus boycott, black Americans could take a broader view and focus not only on lessening the daily injustices of segregation in a particular locale, but to demand their full civil rights as citizens. Further, during the years after the bus boycott, Dr. King grew increasingly committed to nonviolence, he was an advocate for nonviolence both nationally and internationally.
~1957–After the boycott, in 1957, civil rights leaders throughout the south banded together and established the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), an organization whose strategy centered on the use of nonviolent action towards ending segregation in the United States. Dr. King was elected as the SCLC’s first president.
~1965—Dr. King led a Civil Rights demonstration cross the Alabama River on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. This was a start of a five day, 50 mile march to the State Capital of Montgomery to press for voter registration rights for African American.
Preservation Means NEVER Forgetting the Sacrifices of the Foot Soldiers
~1968–Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee at the Lorraine Motel (April 4).
~1974–Dexter Avenue was designated a National Historic Landmark.
~1974–The Afro-American Bicentennial Corporation was tasked by the National Park Service with “identifying sites, throughout the nation, important to the role of Afro-Americans in American history.” The study recognized Dexter Avenue as a nationally significant site because of King’s leadership during Montgomery’s bus boycott, an event that initiated his “national recognition as a civil rights leader.” The church itself was the place of “many rallies and meetings” of the MIA during the boycott “where Dr. King instructed his followers in non-violent principles, stirred their flagging spirits, and provided inspirational leadership.” The designation of Dexter Avenue as a National Historic Landmark in 1974 was just one notable outcome of the Afro-American Bicentennial Corporation’s efforts.
~1978–The final name change to Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church–to honor Dr. King—Coretta King spoke at the occasion (October 22).
~1979—THE INITIAL FIGHT: Coretta Scott King, along with Congressmen Jim Wright, John Conyers, and Robert Garcia was in Washington seeking legislation to designate a national Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday
~1982–The nine room Dexter Parsonage Museum (Built in 1912), historic home to twelve pastors of the Dexter Avenue from 1920-1992, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Much of the furniture presently in the living room, dining room, bedroom and study was actually used by Dr. King.
~1983—President Ronald Regan signed the bill into law establishing the third Monday of every January as Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday (November 3, 1983). The first federal holiday wasn’t celebrated until 1986. In 2000, 32 years after King’s death, South Carolina became the last state in the Union to formally recognize MLK as an official holiday. By then, the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) had collected six million signatures in support of a federal holiday in honor of Dr. King.
~1986—The first Martin Luther King Jr. Day was marked with marches, church services, candlelight vigils, and concerts across the country. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Atlanta, King’s hometown, where Coretta Scott King awarded South African bishop Desmond Tutu the King Peace Prize for his work against apartheid.
~2001–Rev. Michael F. Thurman stated: “Montgomery has been rightfully dubbed the birthplace of both Civil War and Civil Rights. It is almost miraculous that two of the nation’s pivotal events took place within a few blocks of each other. Who could have predicted in 1830, when slaves were being sold at the present site of the majestic fountain in Montgomery’s Court Square, that in less than fifty years, freed slaves would begin building their own church on broad Dexter Avenue? Who could have imagined the separation of one city block and one century between the Alabama State Capitol, where Jefferson Davis pronounced the creation of a new nation dedicated to slavery, and the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where both Dr. Vernon Johns and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., led their people away from the legacy of slavery?”
~2011—The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial is situated on a four-acre site along the National Malls Tidal Basin, adjacent to the Franklin D. Roosevelt memorial and shares a direct line of sight between the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials. The Memorial is on Independence Avenue, SW, in honor of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a land mark legislation in which Dr. King played a vital role. Dr. King was the first man of color honored as a memorial in Washington, DC. This is a tribute to his legacy in what is stood for!
The centerpiece of the memorial is a 30-foot statue of him featuring his likeness carved into the Stone of Hope, which emerges from two large boulders. Text from his “I Have A Dream” speech is cut into the rock of the stone. Surrounding the stature is a 450-food long Inscription Wall which features 14 quotes from Dr. King’s speeches, sermons, writings and principles in mind—justice, democracy, hope, and love.