Imagery on Bing Maps enables you to interactively and naturally learn about history by exploring the places where events took place. Today is Martin Luther King Day in the United States. It is a day reserved to commemorate not only a singular inspirational leader but also the movement with which he is most closely associated—the African-American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s. The country underwent turbulent changes during that period precipitated by events in places like Montgomery, Alabama and Greensboro, North Carolina. I’m going to highlight significant historical landmarks that you can experience through Bing Maps. While you’re exploring, be sure to check out the new imagery we’re publishing this month (and there is quite a lot) listed at the bottom of this post.
The Birth (and Death) of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Though many men and women helped lead the fight for equality in the middle part of the 20th century, Martin Luther King, Jr. has become a national symbol of unity and non-violent protest. He was born in Atlanta, Georgia on January 15, 1929 in this house on Auburn Avenue:
Martin Luther King Jr. birthplace in Atlanta, GA on Bing Maps
In October 1980 the National Park Service established the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site encompassing 35 acres and numerous buildings surrounding King’s boyhood home. It includes the Ebenezer Baptist Church (you can see it in the upper left of the image below) where both King and his father were pastors:
Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, GA on Bing Maps App Preview
The site also includes King’s tomb. It’s the white granite structure in the center of the blue reflecting pool above. King was assassinated by James Earl Ray on April 4, 1968 while he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee:
Historic Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN on Bing Maps
Like the National Historic Site, the motel and its surroundings have been preserved and converted into the National Civil Rights Museum, which hosts thousands of visitors each year:
National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN on Bing Maps App Preview
Martin Luther King, Jr. is remembered for many things including being a moving orator, dedicated pastor, and leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. However, the event he is likely most associated with is the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom where he gave his “I Have a Dream” speech before a crowd of 250,000. Imagine standing at the east end of the reflecting pool on the Washington Mall (where the National World War II Memorial is today), looking out over the sea of people and the distant stage set up on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial:
National World War II Memorial, Reflecting Pool and Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC on Bing Maps
Peaceful Civil Disobedience
A hallmark of Dr. King’s approach to protest was the concept of peaceful civil disobedience and non-violent resistance—the notion that change can be affected by the willful refusal to obey certain laws, regulations and demands. An early role model for civil disobedience was Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white passenger. This act landed Parks in jail but eventually led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, an organized effort that eventually (after 381 days) led to city passing an ordinance doing away with segregated seating. Today there is a plaque honoring Parks near the bus stop where she boarded:
Montgomery Bus Boycott Commemorative Plaque in Montgomery, AL on Bing Maps
The success of the bus boycott led to similar protests in other cities. A year after the Montgomery boycott concluded, four students from the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University went to the Woolworth store in Greensboro, purchased some sundries and then took seats in the “whites only” section of the lunch counter. They were refused service and asked to leave but instead stayed until the store closed. More students returned the next day and newspaper and television coverage spurred more participation in Greensboro and other cities. The sit-ins gained nationwide attention and eventually pressured Woolworth to desegregate the Greensboro store and lunch counter (even though stores in other cities remained segregated until 1965). The Greensboro store still exists as the International Civil Rights Center and Museum:
International Civil Rights Center & Museum in Greensboro, NC on Bing Maps
A portion of the original lunch counter is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, in Washington, DC.
Sometimes Painful Progress
The actions of peaceful activists and protesters during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s began to break down long held barriers to equality, especially in education, but not without strong, sometimes violent resistance.
Any early show of unity (and resistance) came in September 1957 in Little Rock, Arkansas when nine students (later to become known as the “Little Rock Nine”) were to become the first African-American students to attend Little Rock Central High School:
Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, AR on Bing Maps
The Little Rock School Board had actually approved a desegregation plan over two years earlier, following the historic “Brown v. Board of Education” Supreme Court decision, but the plan was vehemently opposed by Arkansas governor Orval Faubus. Faubus vowed never to allow desegregation in the state’s schools and even dispatched the Arkansas National Guard to block the students from entering the school under the guise of maintaining the peace. This set up an epic showdown between Faubus and President Dwight D. Eisenhower who, after a proclamation ordering the obstructionists to disperse was ignored, federalized the entire Arkansas National Guard. While it looks peaceful today, the site looked very different during September 1957:
Little Rock Central High School in Little Rock, AR on Bing Maps App Preview
With an imminent crisis averted, the Little Rock Nine was finally able to attend class but were subjected to continuous harassment by fellow students and Governor Faubus won a referendum that closed Little Rock public schools during 1958-59. What became known as the “Lost Year” illustrated the limits of government interference and the need for the public to resolve issues of racism and bias on their own.
Imagery as a Jumping Off Point
Images, like those included in this post, provide context for historic events but provide only one view of important events. Volumes have been written on the Civil Rights Movement and I hope you take some time this week to explore the wealth of information available on line through Bing.
Principal Program Manager Lead
Microsoft, Bing Maps
January 2015 New Imagery Release Details
New 2D and 3D cities this month include:
|Ann Arbor, MI
|Kansas City, MO
New Streetside cities this month include:
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