Biden to attend services at Ebenezer Baptist Church for MLK weekend

Ebenezer Baptist Church is most well-known for having been presided over by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from 1960 until his death.

 US Senator, Reverend Raphael Warnock is displayed on a screen as people gather outside of Ebenezer Baptist Church to view a commemorative service to mark Martin Luther King Jr Day in Atlanta, Georgia, US, January 17, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/ALYSSA POINTER)
US Senator, Reverend Raphael Warnock is displayed on a screen as people gather outside of Ebenezer Baptist Church to view a commemorative service to mark Martin Luther King Jr Day in Atlanta, Georgia, US, January 17, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/ALYSSA POINTER)

US President Joe Biden will travel to Atlanta, Georgia on Sunday, Jan. 15 to give a speech at the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, the White House said in a statement on Sunday.

Ebenezer Baptist Church is most well-known for having been presided over by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from 1960 until his death.

Biden's speech will be on the Sunday before Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which is held annually in the United States on the third Monday in each January. 

Ebenezer Baptist Church was also where Martin Luther King Jr.'s funeral was held after his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. 

On Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023, Dr. King Jr. would have celebrated his 94th birthday. 

 People gather in front of one of the tour buses during a stop on the Freedom Ride For Voting Rights at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, US June 21, 2021.  (credit: REUTERS/DUSTIN CHAMBERS) People gather in front of one of the tour buses during a stop on the Freedom Ride For Voting Rights at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, US June 21, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/DUSTIN CHAMBERS)

A church built by King's grandfather

The church, to which multiple US presidents and several other senior US politicians have made the pilgrimage over the decades, has a long history of civil rights activism. Although it was founded in 1886 by Rev. John A. Parker, the Southern Baptist church became a pillar of the community and a hub of the American civil rights movement under the leadership of its second pastor, Reverend Adam Daniel Williams. 

Born to slaves in the early 1860s, Reverend Williams received little in the way of formal education as a young man but obtained a license to preach in 1888 after learning from several local preachers. He took over the leadership of Ebenezer Baptist Church in 1893 and grew the community from 13 congregants to 400 by 1903, according to Standford University's Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute's King Encyclopedia database.

A ''Vote'' sign tops the 100 Peachtree building seen looking past historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA) is the current pastor, just days ahead of nationally significant U.S. Senate and state governor elections in Atlanta, Georgia, US November 6, 2022. (credit: JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS)A ''Vote'' sign tops the 100 Peachtree building seen looking past historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, where U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA) is the current pastor, just days ahead of nationally significant U.S. Senate and state governor elections in Atlanta, Georgia, US November 6, 2022. (credit: JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS)

Also in 1903, Williams' wife gave birth to their one child who survived to adulthood: Alberta Christine Williams, who would grow up to marry Rev. King Sr. 

Per the King Encyclopedia database, Reverend Williams "was one of the pioneers of a distinctive African American version of the social gospel, endorsing a strategy that combined elements of Booker T. Washington’s emphasis on black business development and W. E. B. Du Bois’ call for civil rights activism."

During his tenure as pastor at Ebenezer, which lasted over 25 years, Williams "infused his ministry with social activism," in several ways including by helping found the Atlanta chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1917, according to the King Encyclopedia database. 

As pastor of Ebenezer, Rev. Williams promoted black businesses, reports the church website, and encouraged congregants to become homeowners, and “get a piece of the turf.” 

The church stayed in the hands of Williams' descendants for decades after his death as well as his grandson Dr. King Jr.'s death; Rev. King Sr. presided over the congregation as pastor for 44 years, retiring in the 1970s. 

 US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris talk to Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA) at the entry to Ebenezer Baptist Church during a visit to the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia, US, January 11, 2022. (credit: JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS) US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris talk to Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA) at the entry to Ebenezer Baptist Church during a visit to the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia, US, January 11, 2022. (credit: JONATHAN ERNST/REUTERS)

Today, the church aims to carry on the Williams-King family legacy in a variety of ways, including a partnership with the Martin Luther King Sr. Community Resources Collaborative which provides an array of valuable social services, such as emergency housing, youth housing and income tax assistance to locals in need.