This unassuming bungalow on a residential street in Montgomery, Alabama was once the place of some extraordinary historic events during the American Civil Rights era.
Known as the “Dexter Parsonage” this house was home to Martin Luther King, Jr. and his young family when he began his career as minister and legendary civil rights leader.
Since yesterday was the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death, I thought it would be timely to have a look at where he lived during his formative years.
King resided in this parsonage while he was pastor of the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church between the years of 1954 and 1960.
I was in downtown Montgomery, Alabama in the fall of 2009 when I snapped this photo of the backside of the Dexter Avenue Church…
I had no idea at the time that MLK’s former parsonage home associated with this church was now open to the public as a museum! (Had I known, I would have been there in a nano-second!)
You may be wondering why I categorized this home as a “Crime scene house” on my blog. Well, it was actually bombed TWICE by local segregationists while Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lived there.
The first bombing took place on January 31, 1956 when King’s wife Coretta was at home with her 10-week old infant daughter, Yolanda. They survived unharmed but the following year the house and its occupants were again targeted when a bomb went off on the front porch in February 1957. No one was home at the time. The perpetrators were eventually caught but despite their signed confessions, all seven were inexplicably acquitted by a jury.
A plaque on the front porch of the house indicates the spot where the bomb exploded – you can still see the small crater:
The 1912 bungalow was used as a parsonage residence for the Dexter Avenue Church from 1920-1992 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. In 2003, the home underwent a conscientious restoration headed by the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Foundation.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars went into the restoration of the home, its gardens and the administrative office next door.
The interior is completely styled with period furniture and original pieces from the King family. The house is so authentic, in fact, that it appears that the King family of the late 1950’s still lives there and just stepped out for a brief moment.
Have a look inside…
I have interspersed historic photos of the King family inside the home alongside the present-day photos so you can get a sense of history here:
Above is a photo taken by Moneta Sleet in 1956 of Dr. King at his Montgomery home with his wife, his daughter Yolanda, and his son Martin Luther King III.
Below is the parlour with a replica piano that matches the one Coretta Scott King played (she was an accomplished pianist and had a degree in voice and piano from the New England Conservatory)…
Here is the family singing hymns around the piano in the late 1950’s:
Dr. King’s home office was [is] located in the back room of the house:
Many of the sermons that King delivered from the pulpit of the church — inspiring those participating in the Montgomery bus boycott — were composed there.
– from: http://nation.time.com/
Below is a historic photo of MLK working in his home office at the Dexter Avenue Parsonage:
The dining room features the original dining table at which the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was formulated.
Below is a historic photo of the King family having Sunday dinner in 1964 while they lived in Atlanta, GA (not the same house, but poignant nonetheless)…
The parsonage kitchen has been gloriously restored to its vintage charm…
In this photo you can see a bit of the restored wood cabinets….
One of the bedrooms…
I don’t know what is going on in the far right side of the photo… perhaps some water damage or wall repairs?
But here is Martin Luther King in the parsonage bedroom with Coretta and their first born daughter:
Such joyful photos. It is sobering to think about (in hindsight) what this young family would endure in the years to come.
This fantastic little white bungalow still stands defiantly as a tribute to the great civil rights leader…
If I ever get back to Montgomery – I am going to tour this house!
For more information on tours and hours of operation please see: http://www.dexterkingmemorial.org/
ps….. You may also want to check out the nearby First Confederate White House that I posted about last year!