In Observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I’m moving Noir Movie Monday to later tonight or tomorrow. Right now I’d like to direct your attention to a very solemn yet extremely hip place,
The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennassee.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated while looking out over the small balcony at his room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on April 4, 1968. But his tragic murder didn’t bring an end to the Civil Rights Movement…if anything, it helped open people’s eyes to the injustices that were ‘business as usual’ in the south and other parts of the United States.
Immediately after the assassination, the room where King was shot was sealed off as memorial to the great man, and wreath was hung on the railing of the balcony. Several years later the Lorraine Motel was purchased and turned into the main exhibit of the National Civil Rights Museum. The rooms where King and his colleagues stared on that tragic day were restored to the way they looked in 1968, and are now enclosed in glass so visitors can see them. Vintage cars similar to the ones parked under the balcony on April 4, 1968 sit in the parking lot, and the facade of the motel (including the sign) still look the same as it did in ’68. It’s a memorial, and a time capsule.
The museum itself has dozens of exhibits showing what life was like for African Americans living in the south in the 1930s through the 1970s. This is the dark side of the past we love so much; this is the part of the swing and rat pack eras we try to forget while having drinks at the bar with out friends of all ethnic backgrounds. It’s hard to imagine it now, 40+ years later, but Frank Sinatra had to do a lot of fighting to get Sammy Davis Jr. the OK to walk into the front door of some of the places they played. To put that in perspective, imagine Oprah not being allowed to drink from the same water fountain as Dr. Phil. Yeah, things were that screwed up.
If any of you kats and chicks get a chance to hit Memphis, make sure you go to Elvis’ Graceland, the Gibson Guitar museum, and Peabody Motel. But absolutely go to the Civil Rights Museum. It will change you, trust me.
-Tiki Chris P.