Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Lorraine Motel and Civil Rights Museum

Today is 50 years since the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. I don't have very specific memories of that day or the days after. I was 8 years old, in third grade. Probably out sick.

I visited the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, in summer 2014, and just realized I never posted about it, except one mention of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

So for today, a few pictures.

The museum is attached to and includes the Lorraine Motel, where King was staying when he was murdered.

The iconic sign remains.

As does the balcony where he was standing when James Earl Ray shot him with a scoped rifle from across the street. The building where Ray waited and shot is also part of the museum, but I'm not going to show that.

While the museum starts with the trans-Atlantic slave trade, it spends most of its efforts on events from the 1950s on.

It uses figures like these lunch counter sit-in protestors to represent important moments along the way.

The Freedom Riders' burned-out bus.

Birmingham's Bull Connor gets his say.

The museum devotes a fair amount of coverage to Bayard Rustin, who is overlooked or intentionally not mentioned in some histories of the Civil Rights Movement.

There probably isn't enough about Fannie Lou Hamer (can there ever be enough about her?), but I had to capture this photo from the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party protest outside the 1964 Democratic National Convention. In addition to Hamer with the microphone, the photo includes Stokely Carmichael (in the back with the hat), Eleanor Holmes Norton (second from right), and organizer Ella Baker (right).

In April 1968, King was in Memphis to help with an AFSCME strike on the city's sanitation services, begun after two black workers were crushed to death by one of the trucks. A sign in the museum reproduced text from a strike pamphlet:

Because you’re a black sanitation worker

You might NOT BE PAID for rain days
You are required to work EXTRA HOURS, but do not receive overtime pay
You have NO BREAKS
You could be FIRED for being one minute late
You work under LIFE-THREATENING CONDITIONS hauling maggot-infested trash bins

The Memphis strike was the source of the now-famous "I am a man" signs:

The night before he died, King gave a short speech that included the words, "I have been to the mountain top." If you haven't watched it recently, I recommend it.

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