On our last day of the Civil Rights tour, we visited the somber location of Martin Luther King’s assassination on April 4, 1968. The Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN hosted Dr. King many times over the years in his Civil Rights work, and it was this final visit to Memphis as he was supporting the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike when he was shot by an assassin from a window in a building across the street. Although the place feels surreal when you visit, the emotions are palpable and poignant. The motel has been turned into a Civil Rights museum; one of the most powerful visits we experienced on the week-long journey.
Our day in Selma, AL started at the Voting Rights Museum, and took us to the Slavery and Civil War Museum, the Brown AME Church where Dr. King organized the famous the march from Selma to Montgomery for voting rights, and then a thoughtful walk over the Edmund Pettus Bridge.
The Civil Rights Tour participants had the wonderful honor and pleasure of meeting Jamila Best ’06 in Birmingham, AL!
The Civil Rights Memorial at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery was created by Maya Lin, the same artist who designed the famous Vietnam Veteran’s War Memorial in Washington, DC. It is an inverted conical fountain with 40 names of Civil Rights heroes who lost their lives engraved underneath the glassy surface of the flowing water, inviting visitors to reach into the fountain to touch the engravings.
While the focus of our trip may feel heavy, we also know how important it is to take time to have some fun and be a little goofy. Our group encountered a giant green mushroom in Montgomery, AL, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to perch underneath for a quick photo.
Participants of the Civil Rights tour spend some moments of awe and reflection in the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, GA, part of the MLK national historic park. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. began his career as a pastor in this church which resides in the “Sweet Auburn” section of Atlanta, delivering many inspiring sermons and speeches from the pulpit just beyond the red velvet ropes in the photo. The recorded words of Dr. King are played and echoed for visitors to hear in this sacred space.
The Woolworth Building, in Greensboro, NC; famous for the 1960 “Greensboro Four” sit-in, has been turned into the International Civil Rights Museum. We had a guided tour of this powerful museum, which not only provides a comprehensive look into the full Civil Rights Movement, but also contains the original lunch room, counter, and seats where the Greensboro Four (four freshmen from North Carolina Agriculture and Technical) planned and carried out a sit-in that sparked a movement of sit-ins to protest racial segregation that spread like wildfire across the US. The visit inspired us not only to think about the progress of racial justice since the Civil Rights Movement, but also how much work still needs to be done.
The Civil Rights group had a long, tiring, and wonderful day. We started off the day bright and early at 6:30am, which is when same-day tickets are available online for the National Museum of African American History and Culture. We were lucky enough to secure enough tickets for our whole group! After visiting the Lincoln Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, we headed off to the NMAACH. One could easily spend 4 or 5 full days in this powerful museum and still not see everything. Our journey through the museum was emotional and enriching, and was the perfect foundation for the rest of our journey to come. Our Amtrak train out of DC will land us in Greensboro, NC where we will explore the historic Woolworth building made famous by the “Greensboro Four” and the sit-in that sparked a movement.