Session's host city Atlanta has civil rights legacy

Session's host city Atlanta has civil rights legacy

Business Meetings | Atlanta, Georgia, United States | Jeff Williamson/ANN

Once place of racial tension, Georgia capital is now South's central hub

Martin Luther King III on Thursday at the Atlanta site honoring his father.
Martin Luther King III on Thursday at the Atlanta site honoring his father.

Fifty years ago, the southern United States was a region well known for racial tension. Inequality and segregation led to non-violent marches all across the U.S., many of which were organized here in Atlanta, birthplace of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church's World Session met this week just miles from the Martin Luther King National Historical Site, the place of the civil rights leader's tomb, the King Center museum and the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King was associate pastor.

Through King's legacy and the city's progressive planning, the city has become one of the fastest growing in America.

Visitors to the city inspire the civil rights leader's son, Martin Luther King III, said in an interview. "When I look and see the many people from all walks of life from our nation and our world coming here it is very refreshing," he said. "It lets me know that people certainly had great respect for my parents."

Atlanta's booming business community is home to several Fortune 500 companies and multi-media organizations. It's also home to the world's busiest airport, which served as the international transportation hub for the 1996 Olympics.

Even during segregation, the city was growing, having already had a railroad system and a newly built airport, King said. "I think all of those factors created a fertile climate for civil and human rights to have to be addressed, [and] at some point the city coined the phrase, 'a city too busy to hate,'" he said.

In 1980, the historical site honoring King was established and is now operated by the National Park Service. Its operators say the local partnership has meant support.

"I think that the city of Atlanta has been a great partner to the national site," said Judy Forte, the site's superintendent. "We could not have existed without obviously the contributions they have made and commitment they've made for the hundreds of thousands of visitors we get here."

For the people who visit Atlanta and the historical site, King wants them to leave inspired.

"I hope they take away the context that there's still so much work that needs to be done -- in our nation and in our communities and our cities and our states and our world," King said. "That's what I hope happens."