National Civil Rights Museum brings history to 21st century
MSNBC - From down on Mulberry Street, the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. looks very much the way it did 46 years ago, when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stepped from room 306, onto a second-floor balcony, and into eternity...
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – From down on Mulberry Street, the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn. looks very much the way it did 46 years ago, when the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stepped from room 306, onto a second-floor balcony, and into eternity.
For the better part of the last half-century, much of the motel has been preserved in a time warp dated April 4, 1968 – the day King was cut down there by a sniper’s bullet.
The ornate signage for the motel still rises in a column of turquoise and yellow. A pair of classic cars is parked not too far away. But it’s what’s on the inside of the motel that has evolved with time.
In 1991 the National Civil Rights Museum opened on the site, anchored by the motel and its adjoining property. It was one of the nation’s first expansive museum’s dedicated to the civil rights movement.
On Saturday, a day after the 46th anniversary of King’s assassination and 50 years after the signing of the Civil Rights Act, the museum will re-open its doors after an 18-month, $28 million reconstruction project.
The museum now boasts 52,000 square feet of exhibition space featuring historical replicas– including one of the bus Rosa Parks sat on – touch screen displays and archival footage from the civil rights era.
But the museum reaches far beyond the modern civil rights era, winding back through the early days of the Jim Crow era and the many social and political victories and setbacks along the way. There’s a recounting of the legal battle around Brown v. Board of Education, which knocked down notions of “separate but equal” that kept black children in inferior schools and segregated from white children. The museum traces the spread of black protests and boycotts, lunch counter sit-ins and the everyday folks-turned-heroes who participated.
There’s also a replica of a sanitation truck, an homage to the sanitation workers strike that initially brought King to Memphis.
The journey through the museum begins, though, with the slave trade and the treacherous middle passage in which enslaved Africans were carried across the Atlantic Ocean in the bellies of ships. There’s a replica of a slave ship galley, its quarters cramped with shackled slaves crouching and with just enough room for one more body to squeeze into.
Click here to read more.