For a still young country, America has many stories that need to be told. One of those stories is preserved and well told at the Memphis National Civil Rights Museum. Memphis has long been a cross road of America. This includes a key port on the Mississippi River and a hub for shipping, music, food, and races. The Civil Rights Museum first opened in 1991 and is centered around the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot.
The museum underwent a major renovation and reopened in 2014. As a museum, it still contains the artifacts from years gone by but the renovation brought it into the 21st century with interactive and multimedia presentations. The historic story begins with the transatlantic slave trade. According to the museum this was the largest forced migration in history, it lasted an unimaginable 366 years and transported 12 1/2 million Africans to the Americas. Back in that day, a male slave could be purchased for the value of two muskets.
The museum covers many civil rights stories. Both the well known and the not so well known. Among the well known are the Underground Railroad, Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a segregated bus, the Montgomery, Ala. bus boycott and the standoff in Selma, Ala., voter registration drives, and the black power salute made famous at the 1968 Olympics.
The less well known include:
- Information and statistics about the slave trade that involved North and South America, Europe, and Africa.
- A historic timeline of legislation that established rights for African Americans. Many of which were struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court as it tried to form American society into “Separate but Equal” during the Jim Crow era (1896 – 1954).
- The slow pace of desegregation in public education that was fought in the classroom, courthouse, and on the streets.
- The Montgomery bus boycott that was triggered and sustained by Rosa Park and is considered to be when Dr. King emerged as a leader of the Civil Rights Movement.
- Nonviolent direct action training followed by the ensuing protests and conflicts. Here, among the multi-touch, multi-user interaction, boycott stories you’ll see the original diner counter that brought much of this to national attention.
- The Freedom Ride of 1961 that brought hundreds of young people into the south and the histories of six Freedom Riders who were imprisoned in Parchman Penitentiary in Mississippi.
- Sit in a jail cell while listening to an audio of Dr. Martin Luther King reading a portion of his Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
- A room of large murals of the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, with three-dimensional figures and signs that fully immerse you within the setting. An audio excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech plays, and interactive tablets bring March participants to life with a click.
- There are many other important exhibits including the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and as visitors march across the Edmond Pettus Bridge, they walk into a monumental-sized screen of film of the Bloody Sunday attack on peaceful protestors.
You don’t need to be African American to appreciate the lessons taught by the Memphis National Civil Rights Movement. It is part of our joint history.
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Author bio: Brian Kline has been investing in real estate for more than 35 years and writing about real estate investing for seven years. He also draws upon 35 plus years of business experience including 12 years as a manager at Boeing Aircraft Company. Brian currently lives at Lake Cushman, Washington. A vacation destination, a few short miles from a national forest. In the Olympic Mountains with the Pacific Ocean a couple of miles in the opposite direction.