Freeway Free in Memphis: the National Civil Rights Museum
The National Civil Rights Museum is located in the former Lorraine Motel. At the time of Martin Luther King’s assassination, it was the only motel in Memphis which accommodated black guests. It documents the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s from Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a bus up to MLK’s murder. I lived through these years. I was fascinated.
The Lorraine motel is an ordinary looking 50’s stucco motel, two stories, with a balcony for each upstairs room and a little terrace for the downstairs rooms. In transforming the motel into a museum, most of the inside has been gutted, although the rooms where MLK and Rob Abernathy stayed have been preserved, frozen in that time. Now a large wreath hangs from the railing of room xxx, and a gray granite line is set in the concrete marking the trajectory of the bullet fired from the bathroom of the hotel across the street.
Inside, there are sculptures and statues and banners and a burned out garbage truck all evoking the struggles of a group of Americans to obtain the rights and respect that others around them enjoyed. I am in awe of their bravery, and saddened by how much of what they hoped for is still left to be achieved.