Honoring the Past

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by vampirefan on June 19, 2010

Even though I was only 3 when Dr. King was murdered, I remember my mom being so upset since he had admired his great man for many years. Growing up she told me about this great man named Dr. Martin Luther King and what he did. I have admired this man since I was a child and a few years ago when I was in Atlanta I got a chance to visit his final resting place. So I wanted to see for myself the place that this wonderful man was taken from us way to soon.

The Lorraine Hotel and Dr. King On March 29, 1964, Dr. King was in Memphis in support of the black sanitary public workers. On April 3rd he delivered his powerful "I’ve Been to the Mountaintop’ speech which he delivered at the Mason Temple. He was booked into room 306 at the Lorraine Hotel (which was his usual room when he stayed here). Dr. King and several others, include the Rev. Jessie Jackson, were on their way to an event when a shot rang out at 6:01 pm on April 4, 1968. At 7:05 pm he was pronounced dead at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Later James Earl Ray would be found guilty of King’s death.

The Museum

The hotel remained open until 1982 when it went into foreclosure. The Dr. King Memorial Foundation purchased the property that year and construction for the museum began in 1987. In Sept. 1991 the museum was open to the public. In 2001 the museum underwent an expansion which also included the Young and Morrow Building which was once the former rooming house where Ray shot that would end Dr. King’s life. When they purchased the building it also included files for the investigation of Dr. King’s assassination. They are the first museum of its kind to have court and police documents in their custody.

The museum covers the struggles of the rights of African-Americans starting with their arrival to the US in the 1600’s as slaves of British colonies. You see exhibits on inequalities in organization, schools, and the work place. There is of course a special exhibit covering the life of Dr. King as well as one of Gandhi, who struggles Dr.King admired. Guests can get on the bus that started the Montgomery Bus Boycott started when Rosa Parks (who I had the honor of meeting several years ago) refused to give up her seat at the front of the bus to a white patron.

The exhibits go in chronic logical order and cover several rooms. Guests to the museum will see archived documentary and news footage, photographs, newspapers, magazines, among other things.

Aunt Ellen and I purchased our tickets and started going through the exhibits. In one room there was a young man leading a group who was just fascinating. We listed for a few minutes and then realized that they are a private group. We apologized and started to walk away when the group leader invites us to stay.

The museum was poignant and moving and at times hard to take. When you see archived footage of young children being hosed down by police with fire hoses, it brings tears to your eyes. I saw more than a few people wiping away tears at more than one exhibit. I also get very teary eyed on the bus as it reminded me of meeting Mrs. Parks and what an honor it was. When you get to the section that was the former Lorraine Hotel, I was choking back the tears as I thought of loosing Dr. King way too early. As we ended our tour you’re reminded how we still have a way to go in civil rights, but your also reminded how far civil rights have come. The young man who led the group tour Marcus was leading a group of primarily white patrons though the tour. At the end there were tears, smiles, and hugs as we left the tour.

They do offer school and group tours. You can rent the museum about for your next big event. They do have a number of events and workshops thought out the year with special celebration on April 4th and Dr. Martin Luther King Day.

Website: www.civilrightmuseum.org.

And your recommendation Something that should be experienced by everyone.

When you find your self in downtown Memphis, make sure you take time out of your schedule to visit the museum.

National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel
450 Mulberry Street
Memphis, Tennessee, 38103
(901) 521-9699


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