National Civil Rights Museum

The National Civil Rights Museum is a compound of museums and historic buildings located in Memphis, Tennessee. It is noted as one of the nation’s premier heritage and cultural museums. It has a mission to share the culture and lessons from the American Civil Rights Movement and as well as explore how that era continues to shape equality and freedom globally.

The museum was established in 1991 and it is located at the former Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a civil rights leader, was assassinated on April 4, 1968.It was dedicated on July 4, 1991, and was officially opened to the public on September 28, 1991. There are also two other buildings and their adjacent properties that have been acquired as part of the museum complex because of their connection with the King assassination.

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was known as a Baptist minister and a social activist. He headed the civil rights movement in the United States from the mid-1950s until he was assassinated in 1968.

National Civil Rights Museum Martin Luther King

He was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1929. King headed the Southern Christian Leadership conference. He played an important role in ending the legal segregation of African-American citizens in the United States, as well as the creation of Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 through activism and inspirational speeches.

In 1964, King won the Nobel Peace Prize among several other honors. However, he was assassinated in April 1968. His assassination sparked riots and demonstrations in more than 100 cities across the country. Ray pleaded guilty to assassinating King and he was sentenced to 99 years in prison in 1969. On April 23, 1998, he died in prison.

Martin Luther King, Jr.is being remembered as one of the most influential and inspirational African-American leaders in history. Years after King’s death, he became the most widely known African-American leader of his era. His life and his work have been honored with schools and public buildings that were named after him, a memorial on Independence Mall in Washington, D.C., and a national holiday.

 The Lorraine Motel

The Lorraine Motel is where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. It began as the 16-room Windsorlorrine Hotel in 1925 and it was later known as the Marquette Hotel. Walter Bailey purchased it in 1945 and he renamed the hotel for his wife Loree and the song “Sweet Lorraine”, naming it Lorraine Hotel but eventually changed it to Lorraine Motel.

Lorraine Motel Sign

Lorraine Motel Martin Luther King Room

Under Bailey’s ownership, the motel became a safe haven for black travelers and as well as visitors to Memphis. It was also listed in The Negro Motorist Green Book which contains a compilation of hotels, restaurants, and other businesses that were friendly to African-Americans during the Jim Crow era. It is a place where black songwriters and musicians stayed because it was near Beale Street and Stax Records.

Lorraine Motel Entrance Sign
Lorraine Motel Entrance Sign

In 1982, the Foundation bought the motel for $144,000, following foreclosure in December. On March 2, 1988, the Lorraine finally closed as an SRO motel and was set to be created as a historical site. However, Walter Bailey died in July 1988 before he even got to see the results of his efforts to establish the museum. The Foundation with the help of Smithsonian Institution curator Benjamin Lawless, developed a design to save historical aspects of the site.

Lorraine Motel Entrance Sign
Lorraine Motel Entrance Sign
Lorraine Motel Information Sign
Lorraine Motel Information Sign

Visiting the Museum

When you visit the National Civil Rights Museum, you will be able to walk through history and learn more about a wild and inspiring period of change. You will learn all about it through interactive exhibits, historic collections, dynamic speakers, and special events as well.

National Civil Rights Museum Norman Rockwell The Problem We All Live With
National Civil Rights Museum Norman Rockwell The Problem We All Live With

There has been a public demand for further educational opportunities that is why the museum underwent a $27.5 million renovation in 2013. It reopened in 2014 after the renovations which increased the number of multimedia and interactive exhibits.There are 40 new films that have been added, as well as oral histories and interactive media to the already robust galleries of the museum.The renovation resulted in a one-of-a-kind experience. In fact, the National Civil Rights Museum has been featured on the History Channel, CNN, USA Today, and it was also the focus for the Academy Award-nominated documentary, “The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306”.

National-Civil-Rights Museum Martin Luther King Hotel Room
National-Civil-Rights Museum Martin Luther King Hotel Room

 

The National Civil Rights Museum is also one of the top five percent of institutions that have been accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. It is also a founding member of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience, bringing together historic sites, museums, and memory initiatives from all around the world. It is something that helps connect past struggles to the movements for human rights and social justice in the present time.

National Civil Rights Museum Lynching
National Civil Rights Museum Lynching
National Civil Rights Museum Viola Liuzzo
National Civil Rights Museum Viola Liuzzo
National Civil Rights Museum Janie Forsyth
National Civil Rights Museum Janie Forsyth

If you plan to visit the museum, it is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm except for every Tuesday. You can find the museum at 450 Mulberry Streetin Memphis, Tennessee. Visiting the National Civil Rights Museum is a very special experience you can have in Tennessee because it will take you through centuries of history.

If your looking for local food options on your visit – check out our posts on Rizzo’s by Michael Patrick and Central BBQ.

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