Martin Luther King's Home Open for Tours

ByABC News
November 17, 2003, 6:40 PM

M O N T G O M E R Y, Ala., Nov. 20 -- The home where Martin Luther King Jr.changed from Montgomery pastor to national civil rights leader hasbeen restored to its 1950s appearance, providing another touristsite in a city that describes itself as the "Birthplace of theCivil Rights Movement."

The white wooden frame house near downtown was the parsonage forDexter Avenue Baptist Church for nearly 80 years, but King was itsmost famous resident, rising to national prominence after blackseamstress Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seatto a white man. Her arrest launched a yearlong boycott ofMontgomery's bus system, led by the young King and his soaringoratory, that resulted in a court ruling integrating Montgomery'ssegregated buses.

After the parsonage sat empty for nearly a decade in the 1990s,church members decided to restore the way it looked when King livedthere, including much of the furniture that was in the parsonagewhen he called it home from September 1954 to February 1960.Members talked with King's widow, Coretta, to make sure they got itright.

With its celery-colored walls, chenille bedspreads, portablerecord player, and metal kitchen table, it matches the periodperfectly.

"We wanted to provide for Dr. King as a husband, minister andfather because we feel like that is a piece of history that needsto be put in place," said Thomas McPherson, vice president of theDexter Avenue King Memorial Foundation.

The home, newly opened to the public on Nov. 17, offers toursMonday through Saturday, complementing the tours that are alreadyoffered a few blocks away at the church King served, now called theDexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church.

King Only Loud in Sermons

King was still new to Montgomery when Parks was arrested on Dec.1, 1955. The current Dexter Avenue minister, the Rev. MichaelThurman, said King hadn't developed any enemies or any debts inMontgomery, which made him a natural to lead the MontgomeryImprovement Association, the organizers of the bus boycott.