Friday, December 31, 2010

Atlanta: The End Of An Odyssey

I'd like to know everything before I die, but I realize that is not possible. I'll settle instead for continuing to learn as much as I can and to find out more about topics for which I am already knowledgeable. I have keen interests in many subjects--history, science, and the lives people who have made a difference are but a few examples. For this reason I am always drawn to museums and historical sites. If you share my love of learning, you might want to come to Atlanta.

Life's most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Today's morning excursion brought back many memories of my youth. I was raised in the segregated South, but by the time I was twelve dramatic changes were afoot. I was riveted by the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr., and knew that he was on the right path as he fought for civil rights for all Americans. If you do not believe one person can make a difference, all you have to do is to consider the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. to know that it is true.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was an ordinary boy who loved playing baseball, hated piano lessons, and tried to wiggle out of doing his chores. But he was also an extraordinary boy who finished high school at age 15 and college before he was 20. As a young boy he faced prejudice, but believed in the Bible's teachings of loving thy neighbor. The area of Atlanta where King was raised--Sweet Auburn--was filled with upper middle class homes lived in by professionals, and more modest houses where working class folk resided. At that time, King's  neighborhood was the wealthiest black neighborhood in the world. King's sprawling Victorian home had 14 rooms and modern (for the time) amenities. All the children in Sweet Auburn played together. This interaction between well off children and working class children led to King's great compassion for those who are less fortunate. He also was an admirer of Gandhi, an activist from India who preached nonviolence and worked hard to bring positive change to his country. Dr. King followed Gandhi's teachings and ensured that all of his work to bring about equal rights for African Americans was nonviolent. Even under great duress, Civil Rights protesters remained calm and peaceful while being brutalized and arrested by law enforcement officials. As Dr. King preached, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

There are many excellent books about the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., and I've read several of them. But I learned something today that I did not know. King's father was born to a sharecropper who chose to name his newborn baby son after the baby's uncles, Martin and Luther. But his wife wanted to name the baby Michael after the archangel. So, even though her son's name was Martin Luther, she always called him Michael. When your mother calls you by a name, it becomes your name for sure. Thus it was with Michael King. When he married, his wife gave birth to a son and they named him Michael King, Jr. When young Michael was five years old, his grandfather came to Michael Sr. and said, "Son, before I die, I want you to go by the name I gave you when you were born." To honor his father's wishes, Michael King went to the courthouse with his son and had the son's name legally changed to Martin Luther King, Jr. For the rest of his life, Michael King, Sr. reverted to using the name Martin.

As your way up the sidewalk to the King Historical Site, you see many, many footprints of people who have made a positive difference. Two are below.

This statue of Gandhi is outside the King Historical Site.

This is the Ebeneezer Baptist Church where Dr. King's father was the preacher. It is a convenient walk from the Dr. King's childhood home. The church is being restored.

This eternal flame is at Dr. King's grave.
The graves of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King

This is a replica of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Dr. King.
I was greatly touched by this sad memento. It is the key to the motel room where Dr. King was assassinated.
These personal items belonged to Dr. King. Click to enlarge the photo.

When you think of Grammy winners, does the name Martin Luther King, Jr. spring to mind? If not, it should. Dr. King won a Grammy for the recording of a speech he gave about the Vietnam War. You can hear the speech here:

 These are the small working class homes in Dr. King's childhood neighborhood.
The 14-room house where Dr. King was born and raised

Another view of Dr. King's childhood home.
The National Park Service is maintaining and restoring Dr. King's childhood neighborhood. If you are curious as to how stimulus money is being used, this is one good example--preserving history for America.

Cook's Antique Shop in Atlanta provided this two mule-team wagon to use as a caisson for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s funeral procession on April 9, 1968. His casket was carried on this wagon. Formerly used in old time prayer meetings, the wagon symbolized Dr. King's work among the poor.

After I left the Martin Luther King Historic District, a very moving experience, I traveled across town to the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. This greeted me as I made my way from the parking lot to the museum:

Then this greeted me once I got inside:

This is a replica of a huge dinosaur found in Argentina. Actually, there are several different ones but my goal was to capture the giant one.

Do you see this 9-foot tall water jug from Sri Lanka? It made me realize how fortunate I am to have clean fresh water any time I want it. This jug collects rain water, and to access it you use the spigot near the bottom. Part of an exhibit about water, I learned many interesting facts:
  • In the USA the average person uses 151 gallons daily while in the United Kingdom a person uses only 31 gallons a day. Contrast this to Ethiopia where a person is lucky to have three gallons of water each day. How much water do you use each day? How much do you waste?
  • The United States and Canada use much more water than the residents of most other countries. Do you think this is right considering the USA comprises only 6% of the world's population? 
  • It takes 1800 gallons of water to produce one pound of ground beef. Can the earth afford our addiction to hamburgers?
  • 900 million people have no access to clean water.
  • 5,000,000 people die each year from water-related diseases because they have no access to clean drinking water.
I hope these facts and figures about water will help you remember to conserve this precious resource.
Can you guess what this is? It's a model of human DNA.

Humans are alike no matter where they live. We share many of the same goals, and we reflect our cultural in similar, yet somewhat different ways. Hats are one good example. Do you wear a hat? If so, what does it look like? Is it a ball cap? A stocking cap for winter? People wear hats to keep their heads warm but also for decorative purposes. What seems everyday to us, might seem unusual to someone from a different culture. Look at each hat below. What does each say about culture? What do the hats say about people as a whole?

Since I was a child, I have been fascinated by rocks, minerals, and fossils. My father and I used to go out hunting for unusual specimens, and I still have them. If you like rocks, minerals and fossils you can call yourself a rock hound. If you are a young child with this hobby, you can call yourself a pebble pup. Get it? Rock hound and pebble pup. When I saw this amethyst geode from Brazil, I knew I had to take a picture of it. This specimen is a fairly large one. My guess is that is was 30 inches across.

The nice thing about collecting rocks, minerals, and fossils is that they are everywhere. I've even found fossils in my own backyard! To get started in this hobby, go to your library and check out a book. It will help you identify what you have found.

Do you like gem stones? How many of these can you identify? My old friend, Morganite, is right there in the picture. Can you find it?


Rach said...

I bet the MLKJ house was AMAZING. What an incredible, inspirational man. I love walking in history.

That is one fantastic museum as well. That dinosaur is stunning! So were those water facts--and not in a good way.

I like the gemstones at the end. Do I see some topazes there in the lower right?

Kelly said...

Thanks for sharing these magnificent pictures, Dr. M! I've never been to Atlanta, so seeing what Dr. King's house looks like as well as the rest of the neighborhood puts everything in a new light for me.

I'm glad that this leg of your travels went so well. Rest up, and good luck preparing for the next part of your journey!