Recently, the family and I took a weekend trip to Memphis, TN. The ultimate purpose was to see the National Civil Rights Museum. We had never been and I wanted to see it but as importantly, I wanted the kids to see it. I think it is important amidst all the Ipads, video games, and TV that we make an effort to show them non-fiction items..things that really happened. I am not a huge museum person but I do enjoy learning about things that happened in the past and trying to get as much of a clear picture oh how things happened. As we approached the National Civil RIghts Museum and turned on Lorraine Street, I started to feel the change in surroundings and started to try to mentally capture the scenes around me and how it must have been on that day when Rev. Martin Luther King was shot. As we walked through the museum, you felt like you were somehow transported back to the 1960’s. As I read each poster, listened to each audio, it was hard to believe the things I saw and heard. Because as I listened and saw, my current situation was that I was surrounded in this museum with people of every race, and the bathrooms were marked “women” and “men” and not “Colored”. It was crowded as we moved from room to room and shoulders were touching lightly as we maneuvered about. Yet we would get to a poster that read that whites and blacks could not sit in the same section at restaurants. We spent hours reading and listening on all the events of the Civil Rights Movement and I was in awe at the things that happened during that time. If I was in awe, can you imagine the children? They really have no concept of not having the same privileges as their friends who do not look like them. They have no concept of having separate bathrooms and restaurant sections. They have no concept of being jailed, burned, killed for the color of their skin. I have no real concept either. I have heard about it from my mom, in-laws, grandparents, etc. but being in the museum and seeing additional accounts made it all more real. We have come a long way with yet still ways to go. As we got to the final room-it was the actual hotel room where MLK was shot. As we peered through the window, the room was as much recreated like the day he was shot and his final moments. His partially eaten room service was still on the desk, bed semi-made, and all things appeared as if he could walk in at any moment and finish his meal. But of course we know that is not how the story ends. His life ended that day on April 4, 1968 yet his life lives on in his legacy and the foundation he laid.
I was not there in 1968. I was not called or identified as a “colored” person. I did not get jailed for sitting on the bus. I do not truly know what it was like during that time. But..even though I was not, even though I only have gotten a glimpse through pictures…it really happened.