A must-see in Memphis Tennessee: National Civil Rights Museum

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I’m reposting our tour of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. To see the full post I wrote on Memphis, click here.

Memphis, Tennessee is a city of about 1 million people. Most folks come here to see Graceland, but did you know Memphis has a most extraordinary museum? The National Civil Rights Museum. THIS is the thing to see in Memphis, and if you have extra time, head on out to Graceland. Trust me. If you appreciate American history and the tireless work of Martin Luther King, go. Pack your bags right now and go.

Like too many cities, the outskirts of Memphis heading downtown appear riddled with neglect. Remnants of the past loom like broken shadows against weary sidewalks. Downtown, however, is charming and alive.

Desolate outskirts of town

Beale Street in Memphis is like Bourbon Street in New Orleans. It’s a happenin’ place.

National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel

Located at 420 Mulberry Street and $15.00 admission for adults, the National Civil Rights Museum is one of the best we’ve ever experienced. And we’ve seen a lot of museums btw. This museum recently went through a major renovation and reopened April of 2014. Truly incredibly place.

My husband put it quite succinctly: At the site of the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, the red wreath marks the spot on the balcony where he was standing. They have turned the entire motel and two surrounding buildings into an outstanding museum, and the rooms (along with the cars parked out front) are the same…right down to butts in the ashtrays. 

Incredibly moving, we were both in tears at the end: listening to gospel music and walking through the hotel looking into the rooms and reading accounts of MLK’s last days.

Lorraine Motel

Lorraine Motel

Martin Luther King Memorial at Lorraine Hotel

The Lorraine Motel, the museum, the boarding house

Three buildings make up the museum: The Lorraine Motel, the modern building attached to it (you can see part of it in the back of the motel) and the boarding house across the street.

the view that James Earl Ray had when he shot Martin Luther King

This is the view that James Earl Ray had when he shot Martin Luther King. Now called the Legacy Building, this former boarding house where Ray stayed tells the story of Ray and his capture in England.

Did you know?

Martin Luther King’s last speech almost didn’t transpire? A fierce storm powered through Memphis on Apr 3rd. MLK and his cohorts didn’t expect people to show up to the Mason Memphis Church where he was to deliver the speech. MLK planned, instead, to tuck away and work that night. When the minister called and told him the place was packed despite the weather, MLK went in without question. And this is what the world received: I’ve Been to the Mountaintop. Just twelve hours later, on April 4, 1968, in a split yet horrifying second the world became a lesser place when the  brilliant light of Martin Luther King, Jr. was prematurely and violently extinguished. May the powerful and socially equitable presence of Dr. King continue to rise in us all.

Do you have a favorite quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.? Share away!

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Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

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13 Comments:

  1. Should I ever make it to Memphis, now I know where to go!

  2. And I never even noticed the faux pas!

  3. Those are the best kind of pass (pas’s, passes).

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