Memphis – National Civil Rights Museum

I visited this museum in January 2018 and I had slightly feared that it might be a little bit preachy, telling people what to believe rather than engaging in the history of the civil rights movement. I had no reason to be concerned though, the museum was well curated, never tried to preach and was full of interesting and relevant exhibits in different forms whether that be video, text, artefacts or reconstructions.

I’ve posted separately about:

Martin Luther King’s Eulogy

Martin Luther King’s Cell

Jim Crow Today

Freedom Riders

I Am a Man

Room 306

Room 306 is where Martin Luther King was assassinated, and it’s possible to visit a second part of the museum which is the building located opposite, from where the bullet that killed him was fired. The hotel room in what was the Lorraine Motel has been preserved and this forms one of the final parts of the museum tour, it’s quite a sudden and dramatic ending to a visit in many ways.

The room next to the bathroom where the shot was fired, showing visitors the view from where James Earl Roy fired the fatal shot. The motel can be seen clearly through the windows, which is now the main part of the museum. There is some debate about whether James Earl Roy was actually the murderer, but the museum addresses that and presents the various theories that have been raised over the years.

The bathroom, now sealed off, from where the shot was fired. There was plenty to see in the museum and I was here for just under three hours, across the two different buildings. Visiting in a January weekday also meant that there weren’t too many other people around in the museum, so it was a quiet visit.

It is fortunate that the two buildings have survived, and at times that wasn’t certain, and there was a modernisation of the museum which was completed in 2014. Memphis isn’t the wealthiest of cities and so the museum being sited here, especially given the importance of it being Martin Luther King, has at least brought some visitors to the city centre.

The museum is very well reviewed, amazingly there are just 21 one-star reviews on TripAdvisor out of the nearly 9,000 reviews that have been left. Given the sensitive topic that the museum covers, this seems to me to be a considerable achievement for the curators and some of those 21 reviews have been left in error or are just ridiculous.

And, finally, some more photos from the museum which include the replica bus that Rosa Parks sat on and the replica sanitation truck from the strike that led Martin Luther King to be in Memphis.