The Martin Luther King Jr. Day Guide to Skateboarding
History has a skate spot.
Skateboarding teaches a lot of lessons. Things like social awareness, functionalism, physics, and moments in history. Ah, the history.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a time to reflect on the past and look to the future. As it is a Federal holiday —security might be lax. The spots are open, the kids are off school, and dry January is winding down. Get out there and get some.
This MLK holiday, grab your board, stack some clips, and take a historical tour of the legacy the civil rights leader left behind. We’re hitting the streets and landmarks dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on this journey.
**No promise of the legitimacy of the spots pictured within the newsletter. Simply a study of google maps, youtube tourism, and a spotty memory. Drop your MLK spots in the comments.**
Paving the Way
Data suggests over 600 American cities include an MLK street, boulevard, expressway, or road of some kind. Of course, these are streets steeped in stigma, racism, disenfranchisement, tokenism, and heated debates. These pathways should be celebrated and used to connect instead of divide. In our case, they are places to find skate spots.
Street skating is about bringing life to public spaces. Let’s take a look at spots found along MLK boulevards.
Only a few months following Dr. King’s assassination in 1968, Chicago got to work on dedicating a street to the civil rights leader. Black city officials originally planned on a crosstown MLK expressway connecting Chicago’s neighborhoods metaphorically and physically.
Other city officials swept that idea under the rug. In a moment of saving face for the upcoming Democratic National Convention, the famously bigoted Mayor Daley dedicated an 11-mile stretch of road that traveled through Chicago’s historically black south side.
A monument to the Great Northern Migration sits atop a very challenging-looking manual pad near its northernmost point. The spot will force you to begin in MLK Drive, ollie up a curb, and dodge barriers before finding yourself victorious and back in the street.
Up in Harlem, MLK Blvd lends its name to parts of 125th Street. According to the Quartersnacks spot finder, you’ll find our second spot under a bridge at 125th Street/Martin L. King, Jr. Boulevard and Broadway.
There might be a tail drop spot near the northern origin of the street? Not sure. Drop the footage in the comments.
Down in Raleigh, NC, you’ll find monster rails and the first HBCU in the South. Shaw University happens to be located just off MLK boulevard.
Colleges are famous for spots, and Shaw deserves some attention. This school includes a plethora of clip worthy spots:
Working our way west, you’ll find hallowed grounds near Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Rosa Parks Avenue at the Nashville Legislative Plaza. Heath Brinkley of Logic and Primitive fame made this public space famous back in ‘95. From Fred Gall to Myquel Haddox, this spot is a dream.
In Cincinnati, the Andrew W. Breidenbach Environmental Research Center Library is where MLK Drive East meets MLK Drive West. Somewhere on the campus, you’ll discover one of the most iconic hubbas in the world.
Down in Dallas, MLK boulevard winds its way to the art deco dream of Fair Park. Findskatespots.com lists Fair Park with an out-ledge, but further exploration reveals the Embarcadero Building. A different kind of EMB, this spot appears to include a variety of stairs, double-sets, and rails. It’s also just gorgeous to admire.
Elsewhere in Texas, MLK spots include:
Up in the Pacific North West, on occupied Duwamish territory, Seattle sits in King County (a bit of a happy accident). It’s home to notable DIY skate spots and what started out as a DIY MLK Way.
Taking a little YouTube stroll down the way, you’ll happen upon a low-hanging roof to double-set. Interested to see what y’all come up with on that one.
Head down to Portland, OR, and MLK boulevard is a marker running through the historically black King neighborhood. About a block east of the boulevard is King School Park. A guest-local and a local-local put this chest-high rail on the map. If you’re not feeling the pop, grind the middle bar or check out the excellent flat ground.
Not A Street, But A Spot
Here’s your chance to get extra credit and learn a thing or two. History is filled with spots. Skate something interesting.
Going back into the life of Martin Luther King Jr., Boston University is where he met his wife and earned his Dr. tittle with a Ph.D. in systematic theology. Boston University is also home to this little gem.
While we’re in Boston, this thing is also off of MLK boulevard.
In 1964, St. Augustine, FL, gained international attention for its hotbed of racial tension. Dr. King’s visit to the city would lead to an arrest and a grand jury trial at the nearby Federal Courthouse in Jacksonville. The trial would eventually have direct implications in passing the Civil Rights Act.
Across the street from the courthouse is what appears to be a bump-to-ledge. Get a back tail and put that in your Instagram caption.
All over the world, there are countless monuments, libraries, and schools dedicated to the legacy of Dr. King. Skating a monument or church has varying levels of taboo; however, this Memphis monument was deemed cool to skate by the sculptor.
Take a trip to the National Civil Rights Museum while you’re in the area. A couple of blocks away, you’ll stumble upon another perfectly noseslidable rail.
If you find yourself in Montgomery, AL, you’ll find The Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where Dr. King held his only full-time role as a pastor. Across the street, check out all the granite.
Atlanta is home to The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park. I will draw the line here and say leave the skateboard in the trunk. Appreciate the beauty of this monumental park, and use its tranquil pond to reflect and admire the forbidden fruit. That pole jam in the alley is good to go, though.
A manny pad/out-ledge at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library in Aurora, CO
A fat stack at the Martin Luther King Educational Complex in New York City
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” - Martin Luther King Jr.
MLK may have said this 60 years ago, but it still applies today. Go for bolts. First, try. No warm-up.
By no means is this a complete list of MLK spots. With at least 1,000 streets and over 100 public schools bearing the name, this list could be endless. We just need somebody to make a black version of Verso now.
Have fun adding a little history to your next skate session. If you’re just sitting around nursing that extra day-off hangover, think about completing your wall hanger collection. And please, think about taking it easy on the security guards, who better be getting holiday pay to kick you out of the spot.