In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day (the third Monday of January), which falls on January 16th this year, I would like to share my family’s trip to the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN. Perhaps it’s sad that the only reason we even found this museum is that it happens to be across the street from one of our favorite BBQ restaurants in Memphis, Central BBQ. We had seen the Lorraine Motel sign many times when we stopped for ribs, but honestly didn’t know it was a museum until we decided to investigate it a little closer 2 summers ago.
We were on our way home from my husband’s grandfather’s 100th birthday celebration in Chattanooga when we decided to stop for ribs. We had some time to kill and decided to investigate that motel sign. Somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that it was where MLK Jr. had been assassinated, so I assumed that there would be a plaque or something to commemorate it. What we found was a whole lot more! An entire museum dedicated to civil rights right under our noses (pardon the pun).
It turns out that a few hours are not near enough time to explore this amazing museum, but we sure gave it our best effort. In addition to the restored motel rooms that MLK Jr. was using when he was assassinated, the museum has displays on practically every step of the civil rights movement. From slavery in America to Jim Crowe laws to “separate but equal” to student sit-ins and freedom rides in the 1960’s, the museum shares it all. The interactive exhibits including a 1950’s era bus (Rosa Parks) and an original lunch counter from the 1960’s sit-ins drew our daughters right into their stories.
Since our girls are still young I’m certain that these aspects of our nation’s history have not been touched on in school yet (they’re still learning the states and their capitols). It was wonderful to see them embrace learning about such a difficult side of our country’s past. We left the museum that day eager to return again to see all that we hadn’t had time for on the first visit and feeling more knowledgeable, if a little saddened, about this chapter of American history.
In honor of Dr. King, I would like us all to take a moment today, tomorrow, or Monday and think of how we can be a little more understanding and a little less judgmental of our fellow man. And if you have time to honor his memory further by giving back to your community, then thank you for your time and selflessness.