Civil Rights Museum . Memphis
The Lorraine Motel, where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was slain, was purchased by King’s family, and in 1991 became a full museum. I had expected a few rooms of artifacts and a view of the motel room, but I was astounded at the depth and size of the complex.
The entire movement from the 1950s and 60s to present is chronicled, and includes extremely detailed histories of many notable figures and events. It was amazing to see the gathering of people and ideas from all over the south to create economic boycotts, organize marches and peaceful protest. From the sit-ins and freedom marches, to the gut wrenching resistance it was overwhelming to see up close. The museum culminates by viewing artifacts and stories of the march in Washington D.C., and ends viewing room 306 where Martin Luther King was assassinated. It was a moving experience to follow the timeline of the people, events, and politics in the southern states. This is worth a trip to Memphis alone. The documents and exhibits portray a vivid chapter in our recent history.
*Edit: Returning home I can say this is by far one of the most powerful places I’ve visited in the United States. Certain places have an unforgettable presence to them. For me most of those places have been shrines of nature such as glaciers in Alaska’s Resurrection Bay, or pondering the hard times of the Anasazi Indians atop a cliff in Mesa Verda. However I entered the simple looking Lorraine Motel expecting a brief tour, and found myself transported to the rough era of segregation and the civil rights movement. Being a white boy from Michigan the extent of my grade school to high school education on the Civil Rights Movement was, “Rosa Parks sat down on a bus and now African Americans have equal rights.” The collection and comprehensiveness of this place was astounding. No trip to Memphis would be complete without immersing yourself here.