The 5 Best Exhibits at the Center for Civil and Human Rights

Emotional. That’s how my 10-year-old described the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. After having to force him to go with me to the museum, he left effected, talking about how sad it was that so many people died. He also thought it scary because it happened so recently.

Center for Civil and Human Rights

Five Reasons to Visit the Center for Civil and Human Rights

When people see others make sacrifices for their convictions, it’s one of the most powerful teachers. – Bernard LaFayette, Freedom Rider

How could people be so cruel to each other? I honestly don’t know, but I do know that in order to prevent such things from happening again, we need to learn about them. Talk about them. Try to understand.

The Center for Civil and Human Rights gives you a platform to talk about such things. Here are a few of the exhibits that really got the conversation started.

The Lunch Counter: The most talked about exhibit is the lunch counter. It’s recommended that guest be 10 or over in order to experience this and here is why – Guests sit down at the counter, close their eyes and put on headphones to be transported back to a Woolworth lunch counter as a participant in a sit-in. All around you is crashing glass, and threats of physical violence. The bar stools bounce and rock in cadence with the heckler’s jeers. My 10-year-old made it for about 40 seconds. I won’t give away what made him take off the headphones, but let’s just say it got his attention. From the moment I put my hands on the counter, I could feel my body tense up, and that was before the experience even began.

Center for Civil and Human Rights

The Freedom Bus is wrapped with the mug shots of those arrested during the summer of 1961. Photo by Studio Fritz

The Freedom Bus: The Freedom Rides were a series of bus trips through the American South to protest segregation in interstate bus terminals. This exhibit is a bus wrapped with the mug shots of those who were arrested during the 1961 Freedom Rides. On the outside hear first hand accounts of the rides. Take a seat inside the bus to see actual footage of the violence riders experienced during the campaign that eventually led to the desegregation of interstate transit terminals.

Standing ‘face-to-face’ with a Dictator: Somehow I missed this exhibit, but my friend Diane Maicon said it was a highlight for her family. They were all surprised that neither Adolf Hitler, nor Joseph Stalin was a very imposing figure. They did feel that at 6’6”, Idi Amin, the former president of Uganda known for his brutal regime, was a bit intimidating.

Center for Civil and Human Rights

Norman Rockwell’s iconic painting, “The Problem We All Live With” is examined, as well as 6-year-old Ruby Bridges first day in 1st Grade.

The Problem We All Live With: Norman Rockwell is best known for his paintings of the perfect America, which is one reason his painting of little 6-year-old Ruby Bridges integrating William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans in 1960 is so powerful. This exhibit goes into more detail about the painting and it’s impact. As a mother, it’s the acts of hatred and violence against the children that seem so unbelievable. I know kids can be cruel, but these were adults throwing tomatoes at a first grader entering a new school for the first time. Under normal circumstances that would be difficult. Under these, I can’t imagine.

Center for Civil and Human Rights

The lunch counter is one of the most moving exhibits. See how long you can last during a Woolworth sit in as hecklers jeer and make threats of physical violence.

The Lorraine Motel: Climb the stairs to the second story balcony at the Lorraine Motel and learn about the death of Martin Luther King Jr. from a bullet shot by James Earl Ray, in Memphis TN. There are also photos and information about MLK’s funeral that took place in Atlanta, GA.

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The Center for Civil and Human Rights

I was given tickets to the Center for Civil and Human Rights for the purposes of review, as is common in the travel industry. All opinions are my own and I only recommend places I would visit. 


Sue Rodman | Co-Founder

Sue came to Atlanta after finishing the Walt Disney World College Program where she was a tour guide then guest relations hostess (and no she did not moonlight as Snow White). Sue spent 25 years in PR before adding freelance travel writing to her resume. Prior to 365 Atlanta Traveler, Sue published an award winning family travel blog called Field Trips with Sue for eight years, and produced a TV segment with the same name on CBS Better Mornings Atlanta. Her favorite place to visit is anywhere with her husband and three sons. Sue believes anytime is a good time for dessert and there are no bad field trips, just better stories. @SueRodman

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