The National Civil Rights Museum

National Civil Rights Museum

Memphis’ legacy as a mid-South gathering place of cultural attractions is truly brought to life by a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum.

While the world watched : a Birmingham bombing survivor comes of age during the civil rights movement
Carolyn Maull McKinstry with Denise George.
Carol Stream, Ill. : Tyndale House Publishers, c2011.
On September 15, 1963, a Klan-planted bomb went off in the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. Fourteen-year-old Carolyn Maull was just a few feet away when the bomb exploded, killing four of her friends in the girl’s rest room she had just exited. It was one of the seminal moments in the Civil Rights movement, a sad day in American history . . . and the turning point in a young girl’s life. While the World Watched is a poignant and gripping eyewitness account of life in the Jim Crow South—from the bombings, riots and assassinations to the historic marches and triumphs that characterized the Civil Rights movement. A uniquely moving exploration of how racial relations have evolved over the past 5 decades, While the World Watched is an incredible testament to how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go.
Marshalling justice : the early civil rights letters of Thurgood Marshall
edited by Michael G. Long ; foreword by Derrick Bell.
New York, NY : Amistad, c2011.
The first collection of Thurgood Marshall's selected letters repositions Marshall as first and foremost a groundbreaking and vibrant Civil Rights activist in the tradition of Martin Luther King and Julian Bond--not as the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court.
Behind the dream : the making of the speech that transformed a nation
Clarence B. Jones and Stuart Connelly.
New York : Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.
"I have a dream." When those words were spoken on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on that hot August day in 1963, the crowd stood electrified as Martin Luther King, Jr. brought the plight of African Americans to the public consciousness and firmly established himself as one of the greatest orators of all time. That speech is commonly regarded, along the Gettysburg Address and Franklin D. Roosevelt's Infamy Speech, as one of the finest in American history. Behind the Dream is a thrilling, behind-the-scenes account of the weeks leading up to the great event, as told by Clarence Jones, a co-writer of the speech and close confidant to King himself. Jones was there, on the road, collaborating with the great minds of the time, and hammering out the ideas that would shape the civil rights movement and inspire Americans for years to come.
Hands on the freedom plow : personal accounts by women in SNCC
edited by Faith S. Holsaert ... [et at.].
Urbana : University of Illinois Press, c2010.
52 women share their experiences as civil rights activists with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the 1960s. Involvement with SNCC, a controversial and radical offshoot of the larger civil rights movement, had lasting effects on the young women who fought for equality in the deep South. The contributors, now in their sixties and seventies are all activists who have continued their work against poverty and injustice and relate in these short personal narratives, why they joined SNCC and what it was like to be a woman organizing under dangerous conditions in rural areas. Many of the accounts are quite harrowing. The work contains a small selection of b&w photos. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

The Museum's Freedom Awards are presented to individuals who demonstrate extraordinary commitment and service in the areas of civil and human rights.

Oprah Winfrey and Ossie Davis are two award recipients.

The Museum has been established on the site of the former Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. The second-floor balcony of the Lorraine is where Martin Luther King Jr. fell to an assassin’s bullet in 1968. The Lorraine has been restored and transformed into a museum that highlights the ongoing movement towards equal treatment for all.

Since opening in 1991, the National Civil Rights Museum has featured many exhibits and descriptions that depict the advancement of civil and human rights. Some of the exhibits at the National Civil Rights Museum feature:

  • The Struggle to End Slavery and the Civil War
  • An Interactive Montgomery Bus Boycott Exhibit, featuring the late Rosa Parks
  • The Freedom Rides, with one of the burned-out buses on display
  • The 1963 March on Washington
  • The Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike and Martin Luther King Jr.’s Support
  • The Exploring the Legacy Project, a Focus on Worldwide Human Rights

There is also an interactive section of the Museum dedicated to helping children understand the civil rights movement, including games and interactive video and audio commentaries by movement participants themselves.

A short distance from Beale Street, the National Civil Rights Museum is a must-see for anyone seeking a full-flavor of the mid-South.

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Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff