#TheRootTrip: Martin Luther King Jr. Slept Here – The Root

The A.G. Gaston Motel is an important landmark in the civil rights movement and was designated by President Barack Obama as the center of the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument. Located just a block away from the 16th Street Baptist Church, the site where four black girls lost their lives in 1963 when the KKK bombed their Sunday School class, the motel served as the center point for civil rights leaders. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. stayed there, even as A.G. Gaston himself was a controversial figure.

An adherent of Booker T. Washingtons philosophy of both business and not directly confronting the white supremacist system, Gaston was a complicated figure who both thrived in business during segregation. He own numerous business properties, including an insurance company, a funeral home, a bank, and of course, the motel.

On the one hand, Gaston supported the civil rights movement behind the scenes by providing financial support to various integration movements but was widely seen as an accommodationist who discouraged student protests in lieu of negotiation with white Birmingham officials. This caused him to be labeled an Uncle Tom in some quarters because of his moderating influence when it came to the demand for first-class citizenship.

But the A.G. Gaston Motel still stands, and its currently under renovation, where it will become part of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, which is adjacent to the hotel.

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#TheRootTrip: Martin Luther King Jr. Slept Here – The Root

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June 17, 2017   Posted in: Martin Luther King |

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