the wonderful world of veena.

14 October 2013

memphis loves: national civil rights museum.

During Maggie's brief visit last week, she and I visited the National Civil Rights Museum in downtown Memphis.

The Civil Rights Museum is located on the premises of the Lorraine Motel, the very site where Martin Luther King, Jr was assassinated in 1968. The building opposite the motel has been renovated and houses exhibits on the timeline leading up to Dr King's final months, explaining how he came to be in Memphis to protest on behalf of the rights of sanitation workers while side-by-side chronicling the movements of James Earl Ray, the man convicted of Dr King's murder. Additional exhibits present the various conspiracy theories that theorize other reasons for and people behind the murder. And a final exhibit shows different aspects of the Civil Rights Movement as a whole, including the advancements still being made here in Memphis in the area of civil rights. The building next door to the motel also houses exhibits but is currently under renovation.

For history and civil rights buffs such as Maggie and me, this museum is like catnip. We whiled away nearly 3 hours in the museum, reading every note on every board and following the movements of both Dr King and Ray as their paths eventually crossed in Memphis on that fateful morning. We pored over every artifact, watched nearly every video in its entirety, and spent an inordinate amount of time scrutinizing the reconstruction of the bathroom from which Ray fired his shot.

Probably my favourite part of the museum is the wall of fallen freedom fighters [my name, not the official one]. There is a wall upstairs in the museum that lists the names of many people who have been killed fighting for civil and human rights around the world, from Gandhi in India fighting for independence from the British to college students in Mississippi and Alabama fighting for equal voting rights for all citizens. The names are lit from behind with lights that are arranged to resemble the nights sky on the night MLK Jr was killed. The last paragraph on the epitaph in particular really struck a chord with me:
The National Civil Rights Museum honors the spirit of leaders of human rights movements in the United States and abroad whose lives, though tragically cut short by assassins, were not sacrificed in vain. These are ordinary people who made extraordinarily courageous choices: to stand by their convictions, to represent the concerns of others, and to mobilize individuals into mass movements for change.

In addition, you get to climb up to the balcony where MLK was shot to stand in his place and peer into the room he was staying in. It's more powerful than you might anticipate.*

Regardless of if you know very little or a whole lot about the Civil Rights Movement or about Dr King's life and work, the Museum is a great visit. I visited it once when I was in my second year at Rhodes, and it was great to see how it's changed over the years. The renovations that are currently going on will continue into 2014, and I'm looking forward to seeing what it looks like once they're finished. And in general I think it's a great learning opportunity to have such an interesting piece of history right here in town.

Important Info:
Location: 450 Mulberry St, Memphis, TN 38103. downtown Memphis, just off Main St.
Cost of Admission: $10 for adults; $9 for senior citizens or students with an ID; $8 for children ages 4-17. TN residents get in for free on Mondays between 3 and 5pm. Members get in free anytime.
Hours of Operation: the hours change a bit between summer and winter hours, but the main thing to know is that the museum is closed every Tuesday and on major holidays [luckily for us, it's not affected by the government shutdown].

So whether you're a Memphian or if you're just in town for a visit, be sure to carve out some time to visit a pretty spectacular place.

*IMPORTANT NOTE: there are currently a number of renovations that are going on and that will be in place until at least mid-2014. as the renovations progress, you will no longer be able to climb up to the balcony, so either do that in the next 6 or so weeks, or wait until the middle of next year.

No comments:

Post a Comment