Last summer, I traveled up to Memphis, Tennessee, to meet up with a friend from college. The motivation behind our visit was to see the musical “Rent.”
Since we were in town for a couple days, we sought out other activities. My friend wanted to visit the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, and since I am always wanting to learn more about this part of American history, I obliged.
What I didn’t know was that the Lorraine Motel was the last place that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would ever see.
When you arrive at the museum, you behold the very spot where Dr. King last stood – outside room 306. Standing there and looking upon that room chilled me to my very core.
The museum itself focuses on more than Dr. King and his legacy.
“Though the museum is located at the assassination site of Dr. King and pays tribute and homage to the legacy of this great leader, it is devoted to the thousands of people who were a part of the entire American Civil Rights Movement,” states the museum’s website.
The facility is extremely well done, as the exhibits cover several different aspects of the Civil Rights Movement and events that predate the movement, such as slavery. The exhibits are presented in such a way that you actually feel a sample of the pain and of the strength that the people in those days felt and carried. Since I was born long after the movement, I valued that immersive aspect. I’ve heard stories and read about the period, of course, but sites such as the Civil Rights Museum provide their visitors with a more acute understanding.
Towards the end of the walk-through is where we viewed the inside of room 306. The chills from earlier returned.
Today is the day we honor Dr. King and everything he fought and stood for. While the Civil Rights Movement is technically over, the struggles that ran rampant during those days still linger.
Those struggles aren’t just the ones that blacks still endure today. All around the world, people are still repressed, beaten, and killed because of their gender, religion, and choice of who they love.
While we as a human race have come far from our earlier days, we have such a long road ahead of us. If Dr. King were still here, he would continue to be an invaluable soldier in the fight for the rights and liberties that still haven’t been won.
While we did lose the man, we never will lose his words and spirit.
“We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.
Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. They have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.
We cannot walk alone.
As we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. We cannot turn back.”
– “I Have A Dream,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.