History embedded in the MLK Playground

A climbing wall evokes King’s speech “I’ve been to the mountaintop,” delivered in 1968 on the night before he died. Photos by Michelle Bruch

Community members and artists collaborated to design the playground at Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park.


A bridge commemorates “Bloody Sunday” on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, in which 600 voting rights marchers in Alabama were violently stopped by law enforcement in 1965. A federal court affirmed the right to march on public highways, and two weeks after the initial march, more than 3,000 people marched from Selma, across the bridge and on to the capitol. The president signed the Voting Rights Act into law less than five months later.


MLK-playground-3WebBooks by African American authors take the form of playground steps, including Jacqueline Woodson’s “Brown Girl Dreaming,” Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings,” and Michele Norris’s “The Grace of Silence.”



MLK-playground-4WebA grocery playhouse notes the African American inventor of refrigerated trucks, Frederick McKinley Jones, whose invention dramatically changed the availability of fresh food worldwide. The Minnesotan also invented portable air conditioners and portable X-ray machines.

The xylophone evokes music of the Civil Rights Movement that influenced choral, jazz, Motown and R&B music.


MLK-playground-5WebThe train includes a refrigeration car with ice block climbers, another nod to the inventor Frederick McKinley Jones. His refrigeration units allowed crops to cross the country without spoiling, and allowed army hospitals to receive shipments of blood transfusions, according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.


MLK playground 6The playground flies a World War I flag of the 157th French Division, which included an all-black army unit. It earned the nickname “Red Hand Division” by consistently fighting on the front lines and consistently driving back German soldiers, according to the University of South Carolina.