Church in Montgomery where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. began his activism strives to preserve legacy

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Fifty years after the death of Dr. King, people and organizations are working to preserve his message of unity and justice.

A chorus of voices from all walks of life filled the inside of Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church on Tuesday singing the words "I do believe" during a tour of the historic building.

"This is a national historic landmark with a legacy that will outlive any of us," said Wanda Battle, the church's Tour Director.

A legacy that began when Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta moved to the parsonage on South Jackson Street. "This 25 and 27-year-old couple just wanting the experience of pastoring their own church," explained Battle. It's preserved today by the small sanctuary steps away from the state capitol.

"I love how the church has outreached into the community to support that young base that the church itself doesn't have," said Battle.

Last year over 20,000 people came to Dexter Baptist to tour the inspiring space. The office he sat in, frozen in time, adorned with highlights of his life there.

In the name of preservation, the staff is always seeking to do more. "This church is a historical landmark," said Battle.

Dexter Baptist is working with the state to erect Montgomery's first ever statue of Dr. King, right here at the church. "It's our way of just showing an honor and appreciation for a legacy," explained Battle.

Battle says the statue is just a reminder of what remains to be done.

"The actual work is within every one of us every day, and a statue cannot replace that. It begins right here in every one of our hearts."

The last words of the song from the group of tourists rang high through the rafters, "we shall overcome, today."

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