One of the many new things I learned about when I moved to America was the long history of the struggle between white and black Americans. Everything from slavery and the civil war to the civil rights movement and beyond.
I’ve lived in Atlanta for the majority of my time in the States. Atlanta was one of many cities that was crucial to the civil rights movement. That has given me great opportunities to visit and learn about Atlanta’s role in the civil rights movement. Given my job as a flight attendant, I’m able to visit more places that I ever imagined. One of those is the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN.
Last summer, I had a long Memphis layover and decided to visit the National Civil Rights Museum. It is located at the Lorraine Motel, the motel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was staying while in Memphis to support African-American sanitation workers’ fight for their rights. On 4 April 1968, King was assassinated on the balcony outside Room 306 where he and his friends were staying. Several decades later, the motel was turned into a memorial and museum dedicated to the civil rights movement.
This museum is rich with information on all aspects of the civil rights movement – from union issues to education to the Black Power movement. There are many different exhibits that showcase many different artifacts. For example, there is a bus in the Montgomery Bus Boycott exhibit. You can enter the bus, see a statue of Rosa Parks sitting a bus seat, and sit on the bus seats while listening to an excerpt of MLK Jr’s speech on the bus boycott.
I learned quite a bit more than I expected at the National Civil Rights Museum. Understandably, I did get a little emotional near the end of the prescribed route – the exhibit on Room 306. From here, you can see Room 306 as it would’ve looked in 1968. And you can see the balcony where King was shot. The museum docent will point out the building and window from which James Earl Ray shot King. The day that I visited was a busy summer afternoon, and even though the museum (including this exhibit) was packed, the mood was somber in this room. There is a square of concrete in the balcony that was stained with King’s blood – it has been replaced and is noticeable when looking at the balcony. The docent will likely point this out as well.
If you get a chance to visit Memphis, eat some good BBQ, and enjoy half a day at the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel. With Black History Month coming up, it would be a nice addition to a visit to Memphis.
Here’s to learning about the past and hoping for a more peaceful future,