MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The preservation of Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church continues, thanks in part to a grant awarded by the National Park Service. Dexter will receive $750,000 via the African American Civil Rights Grant Program, which is supported by the Historic Preservation Fund.
This grant is earmarked for the repair and restoration of the exteriors of the church and of the nearby Dexter Parsonage Museum, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his family lived during his tenure.
To maintain their designations as historic sites, repair and restoration must be carried out in accordance with architectural standards. One of the most pressing needs is the replacement of the church’s roof. Grant funds will also provide for the professional evaluation and maintenance of the church’s brick façade and the foundations of both structures.
The church fondly known as Dexter was established in 1877 by former slaves. In 1883, they began laying the foundation of the current church, collecting discarded bricks along Dexter Avenue and carrying them to the site in wagons. These bricks were cast-offs, considered unusable by the city workers who were paving the street. Construction of the church, just one block from Alabama’s state capitol building, was completed in 1889.
In the 1950s, under the leadership of the Rev. King, its members laid a foundation of a different kind, helping to set the stage for the U.S. Civil Rights Movement. In 1955, soon after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger on a city bus, community members met in Dexter’s basement to organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
More than a century after its founding, Dexter remains a vital place of worship and community service. Thousands of national and international tourists visit each year – attending both tours and religious services – to be educated about its history and to experience Dexter in action, where we live out God’s message of love, fairness, and justice.
Based on its history and role in the Movement, the church is a National Historic Landmark and is included on the National Register of Historic Places. It is also on a tentative list of sites to be considered for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO’s) list of World Heritage Sites. This list includes some of the world’s best-known places, such as Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, India’s Taj Mahal, the Statue of Liberty, and the Grand Canyon.
The people of Dexter are grateful for answered prayers. and committed to being faithful stewards, so that our church may continue to be a place of refuge and light, homecoming and hope.