National Civil Rights Museum

The fatal event on April 4, 1968, the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was the catalyst for the opening of the National Civil Rights Museum on September 28, 1991 after many years of fund-raising. The Lorraine Motel was where this tragic event happened and after the assassination the minority-owned motel went through a major decline. By 1982 the property was foreclosed and many prominent figures from Memphis became very concerned that the motel, seen as a significant historic building which would be extinguished out of disregard and neglect.

Hence the Martin Luther King Memorial Foundation was created to save the Lorraine Motel. The Foundation then began seeking funds to start the nations first expansive exhibit which would recount America's civil rights movement. Thus the National Civil Rights Museum was born. In February of 2001 an 11 million dollar expansion project named "Exploring the Legacy" began at the National Civil Rights Museum. Because of the revered project 12,800 square feet of exhibit space was added and the main campus of the National Civil Rights Museum was connected to the area where the first fatal shot was fired resulting in the death of Martin Luther King Jr.

The Civil Rights Museum encompasses a gallery full of chronicles that would eventually lead the way to the freedom of African-American slaves. Possibly the most important part of the gallery is the "Voices of Struggle" exhibit which explains the events surrounding the lives of African slaves from 1619 to 1817 when a nation-wide convention to end slavery began. The Civil Rights Museum gallery also includes exhibits such as "Civil War", "Freedom at Last" and "Freedom Rides" which includes a greyhound bus like the one used in the infamous Freedom Rides that fought to secure equality for African-Americans.

The Civil Rights Museum is an extremely important museum that many say is the most important in the world and addresses equality issues that have occurred and still occur around the globe. The objective of the Civil Rights Museum is to educate visitors about the Civil Rights Movement and convey momentous stories of personal struggle and achievement.

Lorraine Motel has played an extremely significant role in African-American history and became an integral element of the Civil Rights Movement. The Lorraine Motel was originally named the Windsor Hotel was situated near downtown Memphis. It was purchased in 1942 by Walter and Loree Bailey and then renamed the Lorraine Motel. It was one of the few Memphis hotels that offered accommodations to African-Americans in the days of legal segregation.

The Lorraine Motel was within walking distance to the now historical Beale Street which back then was the main street of Memphis' African-American community. Louis Armstrong and Nat Cole were guests at the Lorraine Hotel in Tennessee history and were tied to the flourishing Memphis music scene at that time.

Preceding the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. he went to Memphis and checked into the Lorraine Motel during a visit to the city in support of the striking garbage collectors. He led a peaceful march though it eventually turned violent. The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. was looming. On April 3rd 1968 his last words resonated through the Mason Memphis Temple. The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. tragically occurred the next night on April 4, 1968 as he stood outside room 306 on the second floor of the motel. Though the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr took away a man who bravely fought for peace and equality, his legacy lives on through the many people who continued to uphold his battle for African-American acceptance and equal identity.

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