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Heritage Sanctuary and Fellowship Hall of Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church to Reopen

April 14,2011

The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site will celebrate the reopening of Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church’s Heritage Sanctuary and Fellowship Hall in a special ceremony on Friday, April 15, at 1 p.m. The facilities are reopening to the public after completion of a three-year multimillion dollar restoration.

The April 15 ceremony will be the centerpiece of the week’s events. On Saturday, April 16, at noon, there will be a plenary session in Heritage Sanctuary that will explore the role of the African-American Church during the Civil Rights Movement. The panel will feature Civil Rights leaders and scholars.

While Ebenezer Baptist Church has a rich local history spanning over one hundred years, it was during the years of 1960-1968 that it garnered the world’s attention. It was during that time that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. returned to Atlanta to co-pastor with his father, Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr., at Heritage Sanctuary.

The African-American church in general, and specifically Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, played a critical role as a social, economic, and political institution in the Civil Rights Movement. Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church gave rise to a spiritual leader who forever changed the social climate of the United States. The courage and conviction with which Dr. King led the modern Civil Rights Movement had a strong spiritual basis which was founded at Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.

In late 2007, Heritage Sanctuary and Fellowship Hall were closed to the public for a major restoration project that restored them to their 1960’s appearance. The church’s balcony, original wall color, hardwood flooring, pews, pulpit, altar furniture, stained glass windows, baptismal pool and other interior structures were restored to their original form.

“It is with great excitement and pride that the National Park Service reopens the newly restored Heritage Sanctuary and Fellowship Hall to the public,” said Judy Forte, Superintendent, Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. “The structure as it appears now is not only beautiful but, because of its role in American History, it possesses an inspirational power that can once again be experienced by all who visit.”

Ebenezer Baptist Church was founded in 1886. Because of its associations with King and the modern day Civil Rights Movement it is one of the best known and most historically significant churches in Atlanta. It was the site for many Civil Rights conferences and strategy meetings as well as Dr. King’s funeral in 1968.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site and Preservation District was established by Congress on October 10, 1980. It consists of more than 38 acres (13 federally owned) near downtown Atlanta. It includes 67 historic buildings, most built between 1890 and 1910. The preservation district surrounding the site includes nearly 230 historic structures.