Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2013 in Atlanta

Photographs from Atlanta’s celebration of the civil rights activist and native son


Martin Luther King Day 2013 celebrated what would have been the civil rights leader’s 84th birthday.

The holiday happened to fall on the same day as President Obama’s second inauguration, however, prompting many Atlantans to head north to Washington, D.C., where Obama was sworn in with his hand resting on two Bibles, one of which belonged to King.

As a result, the MLK Day events in Atlanta were a little less crowded, but no less powerful. The stars of this year’s march from downtown to the King Center on Auburn Avenue were two men who had come from Memphis to participate in the city’s tribute. They were already part of the King legacy, as they had both been sanitation workers in 1968, when Dr. King went there to lead what would be his final march.

“He was a God-sent man,” said Alvin Turner, 79, at the end of the King Day Atlanta march, as people lined up to be photographed with him and his former colleague, Baxter Leach. Turner was a sanitation worker in Memphis for 34 years and participated in what would be King’s final march in support of garbage workers who went on strike for better conditions and better pay. King was killed in Memphis days later, on April 4, 1968.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Annual Commemorative Service took place earlier that day at Ebenezer Baptist Church. During the service, organizers announced that due to Obama’s inauguration, the church would end its tribute early and nix the singing of “We Shall Overcome.” The crowd let out a collective sigh in response, but within a minute, the instrumental sounds of “We Shall Overcome” were heard throughout the sanctuary. The crowd stood, smiled, joined hands, and sang loudly with the choir: “We shall overcome. We shall overcome someday. Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe. We shall overcome someday.”

Check out more photographs from Atlanta’s King Day