Martin Luther King Jr. Sycamore

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Martin Luther King Jr. Sycamore

Parent tree location: Selma, Alabama

Distance from MOSI to parent tree: 408 miles


Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968) was one of the pivotal leaders of the American civil rights movement. King was a Baptist minister, one of the few leadership roles available to black men at the time. He became a civil rights activist early in his career. He led the Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955–1956) and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (1957), serving as its first president.


His efforts led to the 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. Here he raised public consciousness of the civil rights movement and established himself as one of the greatest orators in U.S. history. In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end segregation and racial discrimination through civil disobedience and other non-violent means. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee.


The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. gathered with 3,200 supporters at Brown Chapel, AME, shaded by the parent of this sycamore tree, and they peacefully marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge , toward Montgomery . Their ranks swelled to over 25,000 in the final stretch to the Capitol, four days later.


Did You Know?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited Florida in 1964 where he led marches in St. Augustine. Marches led by King were met with violent opposition by segregationists and hundreds of the marchers were arrested and jailed. These actions came to be known at the St. Augustine Movement. The St. Augustine Foot Soldiers Monument was installed in May of 2011 to commemorate some of the peaceful protesters who were important during this portion of the battle for Civil Rights.

Culture Builds Florida: St. Augustine Foot Soldiers Monument


Learn more about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Civil Rights in Florida

National Park Service: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Atlanta, GA

National Civil Rights Museum,Memphis, TN

Exploring Florida: Civil Rights Movement in Florida

IMLS Florida Memory: Images of the Civil Rights Movement in Florida


Peace Garden

Dr. King led marches in St. Augustine in 1964 as part of the civil rights movement, urging his protesters to remain peaceful even as they met with violent opposition. In his words, “Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.” The plants in our garden represent peace - Dr. King’s method and his goal. Plantings include: Florida Wild Olive (Osmanthus americanus) and Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum spp.) .

Click here for more information on plants currently found in the Peace Garden. 

Artist's Statement:

Throughout time people have used art to express ideas and feelings, exploring sights,ideas, feelings, and capturing events through paint, architecture, and music appealing to all our senses to better understand the world we are living in. Art bridges time and space and breaks down cultural barriers so that the history of one place, one country, really becomes a chapter in the history of the human race.


Growing up in Germany, an ocean away from the United States and the MLK Sycamore in the Richard T. Bowers Historic Tree Grove at MOSI, Tampa, Florida, I was raised with a clear understanding of Martin Luther King Jr's importance to the history of all of humankind, and again art is tying  histories and cultures together when I, a German Ex-pat living in Florida, was invited to create a piece of art to commemorate this man and my probably favorite tree, the Sycamore. 


Just like Martin Luther King, Jr., the MLK Sycamore is a shining beacon, standing tall and proud, its silver bark pristine, and true, its crown of leaves a glorious fire in the fall. It's my favorite tree in my new home country.


About Michaela: Michaela Gibbons was born and raised in Germany until she fell in love with a journalist, and eloped to the United States. She now resides with her family in Jacksonville, FL, where she spends her days as  preservationist of historic homes, calligrapher and illuminator, historical reenactor, and beginning urban farmer.


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