Civil rights trailblazer, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was born in Atlanta, Georgia. He spent much of his youth in the south, but Boston was home to Martin Luther King for years. MLK had a profound impact on the city and vice versa.
The MLK Statue in Boston, “The Embrace,” was revealed at the Boston Common last year during Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. The statue holds powerful symbolic meanings yet is also a literal depiction of MLK and Coretta Scott King’s marital union that sprouted its seeds as they were students in Boston.
Martin Luther King lived in Boston three years, worked in the city, received his graduate degree, and fell in love. A lot of life’s milestones took place in Boston for MLK, from obtaining his PhD to the first apartment he shared with his wife, Coretta.
While nobody can fill the footsteps of Martin Luther King Jr., here are a few places around the city where you can walk in them.
1. Boston Common: Home of the MLK statue and freedom march finale
The designation of the MLK statue wasn’t arbitrary. Yes, Boston Common is a high-traffic tourist destination, so it makes for excellent visibility of The Embrace sculpture, but Martin Luther King also had some big moments at Boston Common.
Most profound is the freedom march he led of 20,000 people that went from South End to Boston Common on April 23, 1965.
2. Massachusetts State House: revisiting the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech
The day prior to Dr. King’s freedom march, he gave a speech at the Massachusetts State House to legislators at 24 Beacon Street, quoting parts of his iconic “I Have a Dream” speech first presented in Washington, D.C. two years earlier. Dr. King presented the speech in Boston on April 22,1965.
3. Boston University and Harvard: Dr. King’s student years
MLK received his PhD from Boston University’s School of Theology, today found on Commonwealth Avenue. MLK met his mentor Dean Howard Thurman at Boston University’s Marsh Chapel. While a student at BU he briefly resided on-campus at Myles Standish Hall, located at 610 Beacon Street.
He returned to Boston to receive an honorary degree from Boston University in 1959.
MLK simultaneously took philosophy courses at Harvard while receiving his degree from BU.
4. South End: Residences of Martin Luther King Jr.
This neighborhood was MLK’s home for many years. He held several addresses throughout his time in the South End. Most significantly, the three-story brownstone on Mass. Ave. which has a designated plaque that reads:
This home, built in 1884, was home to Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1952-53 while he was enrolled in the Graduate School of Boston University.
You can find this residence at 397 Massachusetts Avenue. Other South End locations MLK lived in were:
- 396 Northampton Street, his first home after marriage to Coretta
- 170 Saint Botolph Street
MLK also noted in his letters that he frequented William E. Carter Playground in South End to play pickup basketball. The recreation area has since undergone a $26 million renovation.
5. Sharaf’s Cafeteria on Massachusetts Avenue: The King’s first date
This chain restaurant, which closed all locations, was MLK and Coretta’s first date. Sharaf’s Cafeteria was on Mass. Avenue, which was clearly an avenue frequented by the couple due to the proximity of their residences and studies.