Friday, August 10, 2012

Lorraine Motel

Another big drawcard for my weekend in Memphis was the idea of visiting the National Civil Rights Museum, which is at the Lorraine Motel. This is where Dr Martin Luther King Jr was gunned down on that fateful day in April, 1968.

Room 306 is intact, as it was the evening of his assassination, which is kind of eerie and also such a tribute to the man who fought for racial equality and the rights of African Americans in America. Tea trays are there on display in the room, which Dr King had just left to go for dinner, when he was shot on the balcony by a sniper.

In what must have been the reception area of the Motel is the entrance and beginning of the museum, which outlines the struggles for Black America to be counted, to travel on the bus with a right to a seat, to use the restrooms in a public place without segregation, and have access to the same education as their White colleagues.

The rooms of the Museum before you reach the preserved Room 306 outline the struggles, and the gaining of power of the movement towards legal equality. Footage of the I Have A Dream speech is played, which paired up my previous weekend's trip so coincidentally to provide me with this strong American history lesson.

King's work, his gaining of voice, and his arrests in the struggle to his last day, it laid out in photos and articles. The photo of him in his prison shot is pretty amazing to see.

One of the most powerful stories is that of Mrs. Rosa Parks and her arrest which led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Arrested because she would not give up her seat to a White person, the civil rights movement then activated a boycott of the buses by the Black community. A boycott of 381 days, before the financial toll on the city of Montgomery and the blight that the violence towards the boycotting people by White supremists, led to change. This non-violent protest put the spotlight on the violation of civil rights, and launched King as a national symbol and leader of the movement towards equality.

At the Museum, you can step onto a bus and see Mrs Parks in her seat, and hear the orders barked at her by the bus driver. You can then here the call the driver puts through to have her arrested.

Taken from Mrs Parks' autobiography, she reiterated about that day:

People always say that I didn't give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn't true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.

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