A day to remember — and to dream

My hometown of Memphis, Tennessee has some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet, and (in my opinion) the very best pork barbecue you’ll ever taste. Memphis is famous for music from Beale Street to Sun Studios to Stax Records.

Unfortunately, it’s infamous for some things, too.

On April 4, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed by an assassin’s bullet while speaking from a balcony at the Lorraine Motel in downtown Memphis. Earlier that day, at the Mason Temple, he had given his legendary “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. He was in town to support African American sanitation workers, who were on strike for equal wages and improvement of deplorable working conditions. A week earlier Dr. King had walked with the sanitation workers in the iconic “I Am a Man” civil rights march to the steps of Memphis City Hall.

Photo source: Pixabay

About three weeks after Dr. King’s death and after protests in cities across the country, the city settled the sanitation workers’ strike, raising wages and recognizing their union. Today the Lorraine Motel is part of a complex housing the National Civil Rights Museum, which also owns a building across the street, a former boarding house from which James Earl Ray fired the fatal shot. An affiliate Smithsonian museum, the National Civil Rights Museum highlights the human rights struggles of African Americans from early slavery rebellions, through Reconstruction and mid-century civil rights protests, up to present times.

If you travel to Memphis to tour Graceland and Sun Studios or to eat some world-class barbecue, I sincerely hope you’ll also tour the National Civil Rights Museum. Permanent exhibits include the Montgomery (Alabama) bus boycott. You can enter a bus and listen to an audio narrative was you sit near a figure of Rosa Parks. There’s also an exhibit about the sanitation workers’ strike and a video of the “Mountaintop” speech given the day of Dr. King’s death. There are many special exhibits and events, as well. (The National Civil Rights Museum is currently closed due to COVID-19, but will reopen when it is safe to do so.)

15 thoughts on “A day to remember — and to dream

  1. I have been to the National Civil Rights Museum. It was the #1 highlight of one of several trips my family made to Memphis. (I had a cousin who lived there.) The museum was so moving, and I know my kids (teens at the time) will never forget it. Still remember the cigarettes left in the ashtray in Dr. King’s hotel room, and viewing the balcony from across the street at the boarding house. Yes, we did Sun Records and Beale Street and the Stax Museum of Soul (awesome), Graceland, the Rendezvous for ribs and ducks marching to the fountain on a red carpet at the Peabody. But really…the Civil Rights Museum was like a step both back and forward into history. Thank you, Vickie, for the inspiring post on an inspiring day.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Lisa, so excited that you’ve spent time in Memphis and even have kin there! (How did I not know this?) And thanks for sharing what a powerful experience it is to visit the Civil Rights Museum.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Would love for all of you to visit Memphis, and especially the Civil Rights Museum. Would love to personally lead the Chicks on a tour of Memphis!

    Liked by 1 person

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