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Sweet Auburn Historic District is gateway to Martin Luther King’s Atlanta

For decades, "Sweet Auburn" was the main drag of Atlanta's striving black middle class. You still can see the original home of the city's first black newspaper (The Atlanta Daily World), its first large black-owned business (Atlanta Life Insurance), its longtime civil rights organization (the Southern Christian Leadership Conference) - and a museum documenting it all, the APEX (African-American Panoramic Experience)

 But the real reason tour buses prowl the avenue is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. To the right, you see his pulpit (Ebenezer Baptist Church), his tomb (at the King Center) and his birthplace (a two-story Queen Anne house). The white marble tomb, which seems to float on a reflection pool, is close enough to the street that you can make out the famous inscription that begins "Free at last!"

Riders with G.P.S. (Group Pedaling and Siteseeing) from Lithonia joined visitors and guests at the The King Center) on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta.  JOHN SPINK /JSPINK@AJC.COM (JOHN SPINK / AJC/JOHN SPINK / AJC)

Getting there: Despite its name, the King Memorial MARTA station is not the best stop to use on the rail system. From MARTA, a better station is Georgia State. Exit to Jesse Hill Jr. Drive and walk past Grady Hospital to Auburn Avenue, according to the MARTA Guide web site. Another good transit option is the Atlanta Streetcar, which runs between the Civil Rights Museum and the King Historic District. By car, there is parking behind the Martin Luther King Jr. Historic Site on John Wesley Dobbs Avenue.

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Ebenezer Baptist Church: Daddy King's church installed this sign in 1956 -- the same year that his eldest son began rising to prominence with the Montgomery Bus Boycott. In 1996, the National Park Service secured a 50-year lease on the historic Auburn Avenue church, and the church's congregation began building a new sanctuary across the street, which opened in 1999. (PETE CORSON / pcorson@ajc.com)

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Atlanta’s Royal Peacock is one of the key sites that defines Atlanta culture

Crowds gather outside the famed Royal Peacock Club on Auburn Avenue in this photo from the 1960s. Originally named The Top Hat Club, the nightspot opened in 1938 and featured some of the top acts in show business, including Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong, James Brown, Muddy Waters, Otis Redding, B.B. King, the Four Tops, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett, The Supremes, Jackie Wilson, Little Richard, Aretha Franklin, Ike and Tina Turner and Gladys Knight and the Pips. The club, at 186 Auburn Avenue, reopened in 2010 and remains open today. Photo courtesy of Skip Mason Archives. »» SEE MORE FLASHBACK FOTOS FROM THE AJC ARCHIVES.

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