Six years ago, I took a trip to Atlanta. I visited the King Center, Ebenezer Baptist Church, and the family home where he was born. I also saw an unexpected photo of King at the Margaret Mitchell House — as a child, he sang with the church choir at the premiere of Gone with the Wind. As I sat down to lunch before heading for the airport, I realized I had forgotten to visit the grave.
Yesterday I saw something on television that gives me a new take about that omission. I watched a biography of Alexander Hamilton. At its conclusion, the scholars commented on the fact that there is no fancy Hamilton memorial site. One said that “we don’t tend to memorialize people who make systems”, that we prefer to erect things like statues to commemorate things like battles. The final speaker said that there is no need for a “Hamilton memorial.” Since he was a primary creator of the Constitution, the federal banking system, and the army, “we live IN his memorial.”
In Atlanta, I was so caught up in the physical and verbal artifacts of King’s life that the grave seemed almost irrelevant.