It's part of the city's past and very much in its present, from the childhood home of Martin Luther King -- reopening to the public in 2017 after repairs -- to today's protests against racism and the death penalty.
Here are some places to visit to witness Atlanta's civil and human rights experiences right now.
The church where Martin Luther King Senior and Junior once preached -- and where his mother was murdered while playing the organ in 1974 -- is now part of the Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site.
Opposite stands the modern Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Rev. Raphael Warnock holds regular sermons, within view of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.
Security is tight here, given the history of violence against its leadership, but guests are welcome to visit during the Sunday services and the music of the M.L. King, Sr. Choir welcomes all comers.
Hearing Warnock is worth the visit.
He isn't just known as an excellent preacher in a city packed with good preachers. He's also got a keen focus on helping those who need a leg up and fighting on larger issues of social justice.
"In a world plagued by the folly of foolishness, there's no greater gift it seems this Christmas than the gift of wisdom, as we are dealing with nation a that seems like it is stuck on stupid," he says.
"When people would rather be titillated and entertained rather than being told the truth, we could use some wisdom right now. For there's nothing worse than to be foolish."
Ebenezer Baptist Church
, 101 Jackson Street, NE, Atlanta, GA +1 404 688 7300
Center for Civil and Human Rights
Protestors often gather around "Passage," Kevin Kirkland's water feature
outside the Center for Civil and Human Rights, which also teaches visitors about current human rights struggles around the world.
The sculpture, which is engraved with quotes from Nelson Mandela and Margaret Mead, became a rallying point after the Orlando club shooting in June and police shootings in July.
The water rolling down evokes King's use of a Biblical phrase that justice will "roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream."
Inside the center, visitors learn about human rights violations around the world, often in the production of the sneakers, chocolate, soccer balls, flowers and other common consumer purchases.
Center for Civil and Human Rights
, 100 Ivan Allen Jr Blvd NW, Atlanta, GA +1 678 999 8990
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum and the Carter Center
Don't be surprised to actually spot Jimmy Carter at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum.
The former US president, with wife Rosalynn, can sometimes be found leading friends and others on a tour of the institution, run by the National Archives.
He's also often spotted at the non-profit Carter Center, also located at the Carter Presidential Center.
Carter dedicated his post-presidency life to trying to end international conflict, electoral corruption and tropical disease and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002 for his efforts.
The Carters sometimes stroll the grounds after working hours, because their Atlanta apartment is located there. (The center also hosts an excellent year-round local farmers market.)
Want to go deep with President Carter on his causes? Try to spot him at one of the several "Conversations at the Carter Center" held annually.
He's not always there and ticketed events can fill to capacity faster than an Adele concert.
The Carter Center
, 453 Freedom Parkway, Atlanta, GA +1 404 420 5100
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum
, 441 Freedom Parkway, Atlanta, GA +1 404 865 7100
Maranantha Baptist Church, Plains, Georgia
Carter and his wife spend most of the year in his old hometown of Plains, Georgia.
The former president can be found teaching Sunday School at his childhood church several times per year -- in 2016 he'll even be there on Christmas Day.
People drive hundreds of miles to show up at 6 a.m. to wait in line, get cleared by the Secret Service and be in place for the 10 a.m. class. The Carters usually stay for pictures with guests.
The Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains includes his childhood farm home; his 1976 presidential campaign headquarters at the Plains Train Depot, which hosts exhibits; and Plains High School, which serves as a museum and visitor center.
Maranantha Baptist Church
, 148 Georgia 45 North, Plains, GA +1 229 824 7896
Jimmy Carter National Historic Site
, 300 North Bond Street, Plains, GA +1 229 824 4104
Refuge Coffee Co., Clarkston, Georgia
Refugees have long settled in the tiny town of Clarkston, just outside Atlanta, placed by refugee agencies and welcomed by the current mayor, Ted Terry.
About half of the 8,000 residents are refugees or immigrants, and that's what inspired Kitti Murray to do something for her town in 2014.
Looking for a way to offer job training and build a community, she came up with the idea of a coffee truck, something Clarkston didn't have.
After extensive fundraising and organizing in the community, Murray worked with local foreign-born residents to open her first truck in 2014. Mayor Terry held many of his meetings there, drawing attention to the program and the good coffee.
Two years later, the non-profit Refuge Coffee is open six days a week using an on-site truck in Clarkston. Another truck and a coffee cart are used for catering gigs.
"We have a three-fold mission," Murray tells CNN. "We want to provide job training. We want to provide a multi-ethnic experience for our community, where it feels safe and inviting and where refugees feel safe and loved-a refuge. And we want to tell a better refugee story."
Five foreign-born residents work at the coffee company, and Murray is currently in negotiations to sell baked goods from a Syrian bakery.
Refuge Coffee Company,
4170 E Ponce de Leon Ave, Clarkston, GA
Catch a glimpse of Congressman John Lewis
One of the 13 original Freedom Riders
who defied segregation on public transport in the 1960s, Congressman John Lewis is still an active figure in Atlanta.
Lewis represents Georgia's Fifth Congressional District and has become a hero to the next generation through graphic novels depicting his civil rights struggles alongside King.
He was a teenager when he joined the movement, organizing sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters, participating in the Freedom Rides, getting severely beaten severely by angry mobs and eventually becoming keynote speaker at the historic 1963 March on Washington.
There's no guarantee of spotting Lewis in Atlanta.
At 76, Lewis is still always on the go, organizing sit-ins on the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington, riding a car in the city's annual Gay Pride parade and promoting his "March" graphic novels
(written by Lewis and Andrew Aydin, and illustrated by Nate Powell) at Comic Con conventions across the country.