There are many reasons to love Atlanta. But what makes me proud to call it home is the city’s rich history in the Civil Rights Movement. And there is no better way to experience it than by taking Tom Houck’s Civil Rights Tours Atlanta.
As a 19-year-old high school drop-out, Houck was tapped by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to be his driver. He was “in the room where it happened,” as they say - living history first-hand. Through this guided bus tour, he imparts colorful stories, insights and humor from his time with Dr. King and beyond.
You see the homes and businesses of Civil Rights leaders, and learn the history of places you’ve probably driven by a thousand times and never thought about. It’s sad and shocking to see buildings that were once the center of the action now boarded-up in the shadow of an emerging world-class stadium. This – more than anything - tells the story of city that is still divided.
I’ve taken the tour twice and would gladly do it again.
Some things you need to know:
Public tours depart Saturdays at 11 a.m.
You can organize your own private tour with 10 friends or more, which is a great way to go.
It’s a three-hour tour, including video presentations by Civil Rights heroes like Ambassador Andy Young, Congressman John Lewis and Julian Bond, and singing of Civil Rights songs.
Atlanta was built around the railroads, originally named Terminus for its convergence of tracks. Yet the city razed both of its glorious stations, Terminal and Union Station in the early 1970s, making way for a parking lot and a federal building.
Houck started our tour with the segue, “segregation is a bitch,” an understatement, for sure. But a great lead-in to Houck’s wicked sense of humor.
Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first black mayor, was the grandson of civic and political leader John Wesley Dobbs. His aunt, Mattiwilda Dobbs, was the fifth of six daughters who all attended Spellman College, and went on to a world-class opera singer.