Atlanta would make Dr. King proud

In this series, the AJC takes a look back at the life of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement through its historical coverage. It’s a story that can never be forgotten, especially by those who lived it.

Atlanta has changed quite a bit since the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. King’s oldest son, and oldest living child, says he thinks his father would be proud of the city but still have some concerns.

“My father would be certainly very proud of Atlanta in terms of some of the accomplishments the city has made,” Martin Luther King lll said.

“The fact that Atlanta has had African-Americans involved in leadership and business for 30-plus years, has had African-Americans with many of the business institutions in leading positions … . But he probably would be very concerned about the fact that although there are African-Americans who are in political power and at the city and county level, he probably would be concerned that when you look at the infrastructure, if you look at all the businesses, the hundreds of buildings that are skyscrapers in the city of Atlanta, there are probably very few if any African Americans who own any of those buildings. By now, 45 years after his death, you would think that you could point out five or 10 structures that African American groups were at least a part of owning. So I think he would challenge us around that area.”

King also thinks his father would be saddened and concerned by the violence and killings every weekend, what the younger King calls “human beings’ inhumanity to human beings.”

Another problem the civil rights icon would have with the modern Atlanta, his son believes, is the dropout rate among “poor folks.” King says education was very important to his father, and the problems with the Atlanta Public Schools and other schools systems would have concerned him.

However, King lll said: “He would be proud that Atlanta is still working to be a city too busy to hate, but has not yet achieved that. When you look at leadership at the state level, there are very few -- and I don’t think now there are any -- African Americans elected statewide. There were a few years back. So certainly by now we should have additional African Americans elected statewide, and he would challenge us in that regard. But overall, you know, I think he’d really be challenging our nation, not just our city, this city that he was born in, born and raised in. … I think Atlanta has been very progressive in many areas, but it still does not mean that we’ve achieved what we should as it relates to realizing the dream. I still do not think we’ve realized the dream that he envisioned of freedom and justice and equality for all human kind.”


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