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MLK Series Part 2: Martin Luther King – Washington, DC Writing Pilgimage

This is the second post in a series leading up to Dr. King’s Birthday, January, 2015

Most of my students didn’t know Dr. King had a strong Washington, D.C. history. As we discussed the  places here in our city which mattered in Dr. King’s life, some were intrigued. So we started to talk about this writing pilgrimage last semester. Now it seems it will happen. Needless to say, I’m thrilled about it. Sometimes young people take you where you didn’t know you would go. It’s good. Here’s our initial plan.

We’ll meet at the Florida Avenue Grill, a classic Washington, D.C. diner, on the corner of Florida Avenue and 11th Avenue, NW. The diner has been a Washington institution for more than 40 years and it was Dr. King’s favorite place to eat when he came here. I don’t know if it was because it was Black-owned or if he simply loved the food. Nonetheless, it’s very much the same as it was in the 1960s when he frequented it. There are about 7 booths and maybe 12 counter stools. The specialty is Southern food of all kinds. My personal favorite is the pancakes made with cinnamon. The delicious smell of collard greens permeates the place, making it wonderful.

From there, we’ll walk to the U Street/African American Civil War Memorial Metro Station and head to the Red Line. We’ll end up at the Red Line’s American University/Tenleytown Station. From this station on Wisconsin Avenue, we can catch a 30-series bus down to the Washington National Cathedral. Dr. King delivered his final Sunday sermon here on March 31, 1968, 5 days before his assassination in Memphis. He delivered this sermon, titled “Remaining Awake Through A Great Revolution,” from the Cathedral’s famous Canterbury Pulpit. The photograph above is of Dr. King speaking as part of a panel discussion at the Cathedral. Perhaps we’ll read some of that famous sermon while we’re in the Cathedral. We’ll take a moment with the small, nearly hidden sculpture of Dr. King preaching. It’s in an out of the way place, a walkway along the north side of the church’s nave. We’ll also visit the Human Rights Porch near the church’s front doors. There we can see a small sculpture of Rosa Parks. We’ll take some quiet time here for some writing too.

We’ll catch another bus down Massachusetts Avenue to the Du Pont Circle Metro Station. From there we’ll head to the Smithsonian Station on the National Mall. We’ll walk to the Lincoln Memorial and sit on the steps where Dr. King delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on August 28, 1963. A few years ago, the National Park Service carved letters into the steps of the Lincoln Memorial indicating the date, “I Have a Dream,” and Dr. King’s name.

Our final stop will be the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. From the Lincoln Memorial, we can walk toward the Tidal Basin to Washington, D.C.’s newest memorial. This small park-memorial features an enormous statue of Dr. King as well as an arching wall inscribed with several quotes from his famous speeches and writings. We’ll take some time here as there are plenty of places to sit, think, read, and write.

 

 

Photo: Dr. King speaking as part of a panel discussion at the Washington National Cathedral, 1968.

 

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