Dexter Avenue was "the first and only church where Dr. King had the opportunity to serve as senior pastor," noted Miriam T. Norris, the church's tour manager.
"The church is a National Historic Landmark," noted Norris
The simple basement area played a role as a backdrop for a significant Civil Rights event -- the Montgomery bus boycott.
"Rosa Parks had been arrested and bailed out by the man who was the local president of the NAACP
Parks, a seamstress at a Montgomery department store, was the third black person in the state capital to be arrested "because she
defied the government and refused to give up her
seat" to white passengers on the bus, Norris
Looking around the basement, Norris
explained, "It was here that a core group of activists came right after her
The group began making plans for how to respond to Parks' arrest and to consider how to communicate the message "to the black community at large," Norris
"It all started right here in the church basement," she
Amazing, the church "was never the target of any racial violence," Norris
Four other black churches in Montgomery were "targets of racial vandals" during the 1950s and 1960s, she
In addition to the people who visit the church as tourists -- an average of "a thousand a month from all over the world," Norris
said -- there are many people who plan a trip to worship at at Sunday service at Dexter Avenue
A Martin Luther King Jr. Day service has been held at Dexter Avenue
annually for the past 32 years.
At the most recent service on Jan. 17, Alabama's new governor was among those scheduled to participate.
"You can't get a seat in the house that day," Norris
said, "are still impressed by what happened here."