Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Civil Rights Musuem in Memphis

After recently reading two books and attending multiple Civil Rights museums exhibits in the past two days, I felt that I knew enough … but, as usual, I was wrong. The National Civil Rights Museum is full of so much information that I felt I was going back to school (but that’s why I am on this trip). The exhibits are almost a media overload – text, primary documents, images, video, and newspapers (my favorite part) telling the story of nearly every aspect of the movement. I learned about sit-ins and boycotts before the big ones, organizations that I had never heard of, the impact of WWII, different reactions to Brown v. Board, more insight into Birmingham and Selma, and the Freedom from Fear March of James Meredith. I also plan on investigating the Chicago Movement more in-depth.
The museum covers the full spectrum of the movement, but there is only one reason for its location in Memphis – MLK’s assassination in the Lorraine Motel in 1968. To see the balcony that I have seen so many times before is one thing … but to see it from inside the hotel, and see his room as it was on April 4, and listen to the song he asked to be sung the next day, … again, walking in the footsteps of history. Across the street, the museum extends to examine the assassination itself. The video presentation on King’s final days and the timeline of his last hours is so detailed, you think you are there. Looking out the window of the supposed shooting site is downright eerie. The artifacts are amazing – the actual bullet? Come on! – and the conspiracy theories are discussed as well.
It’s pretty powerful to travel the South and see the Civil Rights Movement as part of a continuum. Starting at King’s birthplace and younger years, moving to Montgomery, Selma, and Birmingham ( a little out of order, but that’s all right), and ending in Memphis, I feel like I have a much better understanding of and appreciation for the movement and the individuals involved. Now, I need to spread the word – that’s what my friend from Birmingham, Mr. Sanders, told me I must do.
As an aside, I didn't get to see much more of Memphis (no BBQ or Beale Street), but I am confident that I will be back again - with my family. There is a little something for everyone (but no octopus for Charlie).


Will Piper said...

That museum sounds really cool. I can only imagine the eerie feeling of seeing the balcony MLK stood on before he got shot. I am enjoying reading about your travels.


Anonymous said...

No octopus for Charlie? What a disappointment!!

Rishi Raghunathan said...

I'm intrigued by your civil rights travel and I'm hoping that I can visit your classroom when you deliver that lesson. These are some pretty nice posts. Thanks for blogging.