Emotional. That’s how my elementary-aged child described the civil rights museum Atlanta is known for. He was not alone – our entire family was impacted by our visit to the Civil Rights Museum Atlanta.
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 Rights Museum Atlanta gives you a platform to talk about human rights issues from the global human rights movement to the American Civil Rights Movement. Here are a few of the exhibits that really took our family conversations to a new level.
ROLLS DOWN LIKE WATER: U.S. CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT
THE LUNCH COUNTER
The most talked about exhibit at the Atlanta civil rights museum 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 an African-American 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.
THE FREEDOM BUS
The Freedom Riders 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 of the bus you’ll 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.
THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON
On August 28, 1963, hundreds of thousands of people from diverse backgrounds gathered on the National Mall in Washington, DC, in what is still considered one of the largest human rights events in American history. The March was designed to put pressure on the federal government to enact civil rights legislation, protect civil rights, and improve working conditions for African Americans. The March on Washington immediately became associated with Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
One of the most iconic and joyful moments of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, the March on Washington gallery is a multimedia experience that highlights the events of the day. View footage of King giving his seminal “I Have A Dream” speech, hear the exciting sounds of protests and songs, and learn more about key players in the event’s successful planning and execution.
This exhibit explores life in the 1950s in the Urban South through interactive displays featuring Jim Crow laws and the people in power who vocally and violently enforced segregation. Despite this adversity, African-American Institutions thrived in Atlanta with a a dynamic community network of churches, colleges, schools, fraternal orders, social clubs, and a range of commercial ventures.
By the mid-20th century the American South was caught between tradition and change. In the decades following the end of Reconstruction, a “new South” had sprung into existence as commerce and industry gradually replaced agriculture as the cornerstone of the economy.
SPARK OF CONVICTION: GLOBAL HUMAN RIGHTS MOVEMENT
COURAGEOUS PEOPLE TAKE UP THE CALL
Throughout history, brave and visionary people have devoted themselves to fighting for equality, dignity and freedom. This exhibit features portraits of prominent human rights defenders – people who experienced or witnessed injustice and decided to take action. For these human rights champions, advocating for equality and freedom required taking on powerful leaders who fought, often brutally, to maintain control. Each of these champions endured retaliation. Some were threatened, others defamed or imprisoned; two were assassinated. Though they faced violence, most did not resort to violence. Rather, they dedicated themselves to pursuing human rights through peaceful protest and organizing.
WHO LIKE ME IS THREATENED?
Human rights issues and abuses affect us all regardless of who we are, where we come from, or what we believe in. This multi-media interactive display invites visitors to contemplate what unites us while exploring how intolerance toward what divides us can impact lives.
HUMAN RIGHTS IN ACTION
At the heart of all these efforts is respect for human rights, a set of globally accepted standards that are the birthright of all people by virtue of their humanity. These standards – called “the highest aspiration of the common people” – have helped transform millions upon millions of lives. Our exhibits depict iconic human rights campaigns since the end of World War II and the brave and determined people who took a stand.
Every year, the NGO Freedom House evaluates the level of political rights and civil liberties in countries around the world. This exhibit includes a map showing the degree to which people around the world are able to exercise their rights around the world.
THE DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. COLLECTION
Here you’ll find a rotating collection of items from the Morehouse College Martin Luther Jr. Collection, including personal papers (in an exhibition named Fragments) and items of Dr King.
I think the most interesting item I saw were the hand-written notes for his acceptance speech of the Nobel Peace Prize. I can just imagine him sitting in a chair, probably drinking some ice tea, laboring over his words. It made my heart pound and my hands sweat. This man truly knew the power of his words.
HOW TO VISIT AND SAVE
National Center for Civil and Human Rights is part of the Atlanta CityPASS. The museum is located at 100 Ivan Allen Blvd, on the edge of Centennial Olympic Park in Downtown Atlanta and within walking distance of the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola which are also on the Atlanta CityPASS. You can Save over 40% with CityPASS.
WHERE TO STAY NEAR THE MUSEUM
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