In 1954, Martin Luther King began his first full-time pastorship at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. While at Dexter, King became president of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) and led his congregation and the black community during the Montgomery bus boycott. He accepted the call to pastor Dexter while completing his doctoral studies at Boston University. On 2 December 1955, King conducted a meeting in the basement of the Dexter Avenue Church, which resulted in the decision to launch the boycott, and three days later the MIA was founded. As MIA president, King organized and helped direct the boycott from his office in the lower half of the sanctuary.

In November 1959, King resigned from Dexter and joined his father the following February as co-pastor at Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church in order to more effectively lead the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), headquartered in that city. In his resignation to Dexter’s congregation, King admitted that, ‘‘a multiplicity of new responsibilities poured in upon me in almost staggering torrents. So I ended up futilely attempting to be four or five men in one’’ (Papers 5:329). In 1976, the city of Montgomery added the church, which was renamed the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Church in 1973, to a list of designated historic sites. Photo by Clayborne Carson.


  • Title: Dexter Avenue Baptist Church
  • Creator: Clayborne Carson
  • Date Created: 2015
  • Location: Montgomery, AL

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