Georgia Department of Economic Development Tourism Division Announces Footsteps of MLK Trail
April 17th, 2018 Dublin, GA
Seventy four years ago, a young Martin Luther King, Jr. travelled to Dublin, Georgia to deliver his first public speech at First African Baptist Church, setting him on the path to becoming an icon for social change in the Civil Rights Movement. To honor King’s legacy of peaceable action, the City of Dublin revealed two sculptures installed at First African Baptist Church and Martin Luther King Jr. Monument Park.
Located at the intersection of US Hwy. 441 and Church Street, Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument Park marks Dublin as the place where a fifteen year old Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his first public speech in 1944. The result of over four years’ work, the project garnered the support of over two hundred partners, donors, and contributors, and was as Lance Jones, city manager of The City of Dublin stated, “the biggest public/private collaboration I’ve ever seen on a project.” Featuring a painted mural, gateway to Downtown Dublin signage, photomural, and an audio box featuring stories pertaining to the local Civil Rights Movement as well as a modern recitation of young Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech, the park serves as a place of inspiration, introspection, and reflection.
Corey Barksdale, nationally recognized Atlanta artist, was commissioned to design and craft the sculpture that stands at the center of MLK Monument Park. Using Afrikan symbols for the sky, love, and peace, Barksdale incorporated a bench into the design, giving visitors a place to be introspective about their hopes and dreams.Barksdale, who also envisioned and painted the vivid mural that challenges viewer’s first reactions and stereotypes, carried the vision of dreams into his sculpture titling it, Freedom Ascension, explaining it captured, “Civil rights leaders ascending to a different realm and reality where their ideas, thoughts, and actions would be transformed into reality.”
The message of hope carried throughout the day, as the reveal moved to First African Baptist Church for the unveiling of a sculpture designed by Dublin artist, Juan Lleras. Fully funded through corporate donations and a tourism product development grant from the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Tourism Division, the project garnered the support of YKK AP America, Community Foundation of Central Georgia, Curry Companies, and Visit Dublin GA through a unique fundraiser dubbed the 5 for 5 Challenge. The initiative funded the sculpture, new lighting, landscaping, and ADA accessible walkway at First African Baptist Church, visually and artistically marking it as the place King started his journey to the mountaintop.
“Lleras’ sculpture captures the architecture of First African Baptist Church and calls for a new generation of leaders to take up King’s legacy, to stand at the podium, face their anger and their doubts, and move forward, letting their dreams take flight, to shape their communities and their world with action,” explained Bill Brown, chairman of Visit Dublin GA.
Footsteps of MLK Trail
From the beginning, the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Tourism Division has been a key partner, funding six Tourism Product Development grants for the project. Director of Product Development with GDEcD, Cindy Eidson attended the reveal with Jeanne Cyriaque, Civil Rights Specialist with GDEcD to announce Dublin’s inclusion in the Footsteps of MLK Trail. Announced April 9th, the new trail, Georgia’s Footsteps of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Trail, was created in partnership with The King Center and was launched as part of the memorial service commemorating the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death. Dublin has two stops on the trail: First African Baptist Church and Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument Park.
”The Church and MLK Monument are going to be a primary draw for the Civil Rights Movement not only for Georgia, but for the country.” said Cindy Edison, Director of Tourism Product Development with GDEcD. “This monument represents the beginning of what shaped Martin Luther King, Jr.’s path that gave him the strength and courage that made him the leader of the Civil Rights Movement.
There is more on the horizon, as Dublin develops a living play called One Day: Dublin’s Civil Rights Experience, where visitors to First African Baptist Church will step into the past and take on the role of Civil Rights leaders. This live action play captures the world of segregation through the life and world of Hub Dudley, a Dublin businessman who set the stage for Civil Rights activity in Dublin at Dudley Motel, where he welcomed leaders like Dr. King, Andrew Young, and Reverend Abernathy. Developed with the assistance of Carl Pearson, DuBose Porter, and Scott Thompson, this play catapults Dublin into the spotlight as the place where the Civil Rights Movement not only began, but was planned.
As this project continues and develops, the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. ring ever true today. “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with pains taking excellence.”
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Visit Dublin GA