The House Where Martin Luther King Jr. Planned Civil Rights Marches Is Moving to Michigan

The historic home also hosted the likes of W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington

King bust
Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Selma, Alabama Adam Jones via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0

The simple house at 1416 Lapsley Avenue in Selma, Alabama, was once owned by a dentist, Sullivan Jackson, and his wife, Richie Jean. From the outside, nobody would be able to tell that the one-story home once held future members of Congress and two Nobel Peace Prize winners, working side-by-side.

Throughout the 20th century, the house hosted the likes of W.E.B. Du BoisBooker T. Washington and Martin Luther King Jr. It is where King watched President Johnson’s “We shall overcome” speech in 1965 and planned the civil rights marches from Selma to Montgomery. Later, the Jackson House became a museum

Soon, however, it will move to a new home. The Henry Ford, a museum complex in Dearborn, Michigan, just announced that the Jackson House will be deconstructed and transported to its Greenfield Village, where it will continue as a museum alongside other historic homes, including the house where Thomas Edison worked on the lightbulb.

“It became increasingly clearer to me that the house belonged to the world, and quite frankly, the Henry Ford was the place that I always felt in my heart that it needed to be,” Jawana Jackson, the couple’s only daughter and owner of the house, tells the Associated Press’ Corey WIlliams. 

Selma to Montgomery
A sign commemorates the Selma to Montgomery march route. Public domain

The move will take place over the course of three years. The house will be deconstructed in pieces, and the structure as well as the artifacts within will travel over 800 miles from Selma up to Dearborn. The artifacts include the maple table around which civil rights leaders sat to plan the Selma marches and the upholstered chair in which King sat to watch Johnson’s speech.

Laura Lott, president and CEO of the American Alliance of Museums, is confident that the move will go smoothly.

“The Henry Ford has the expertise necessary to physically preserve the Jackson House and its artifacts and to share its powerful story,” she says in a statement from the museum. “In my view, the Jackson House will be in excellent hands and will receive all of the care and attention this historically significant structure deserves.”

Jackson House
A view of the Jackson House, currently in Selma, Alabama Jawana Jackson

The Henry Ford began with its eponymous founder’s obsession with antiques. Ford believed in telling the histories of ordinary people through the collection of everyday objects; according to the museum’s website, upon his mother's death Ford restored his childhood farmhouse to appear as he remembered it more than 40 years prior. This building and others that he restored became the backbone of Greenfield Village, where the Jackson House will stand.  

Today, the village also includes the courthouse where Abraham Lincoln practiced law, as well as the workshops in which Wilbur and Orville Wright once worked on their airplane designs.

Greenfield Village
Henry Ford's Greenfield Village depicted in a postcard sometime between 1930 and 1945 Public domain

“Maintaining, sustaining and programming historic buildings is what we do best,” says Patricia Mooradian, president and CEO of the Henry Ford, in the museum’s statement. 

The Henry Ford museum receives 1.5 million visitors annually, and Jackson is happy they will get a chance to see the historic house.

“The promise I made to my parents at their deaths to preserve our rich family legacy is now fulfilled,” says Jackson in the statement. 

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