The National Civil Rights Museum isn’t normally open on Tuesdays, but an exception will be made on Tuesday, June 21 — the day after Juneteenth is observed as a federal holiday.
On Tuesday, June 21, the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, will not only be open, but in honor of what is billed as “Focused on Freedom Community Day,” admission will be free. The museum will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“The experience is an opportunity to learn about the Civil Rights Movement and to remember the sacrifices of generations past that made room for the freedoms enjoyed today,” according to the National Civil Rights Museum.
The National Civil Rights Museum’s Mission
The National Civil Rights Museum is located at the Lorraine Motel, in Memphis, Tennessee, where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
“Through interactive exhibits, historic collections, dynamic speakers, and special events, the museum offers visitors a chance to walk through history and learn more about a tumultuous and inspiring period of change,” the museum explains.
That’s possible because the museum features 260 artifacts, more than 40 films, oral histories, interactive media, and external listening posts visitors use to explore history — “from the beginning of the resistance during slavery, through the Civil War and Reconstruction, the rise of Jim Crow, and the seminal events of the late 20th century that inspired people around the world to stand up for equality.” Together, they present an overview of the American Civil Rights Movement from slavery to the present.
The museum incorporates two main buildings. The first is the Lorraine Building, which features films, oral histories, and interactive media, as well as artifacts and exhibits. Galleries in the Lorraine Building are arranged in chronological order to recount key episodes of the American Civil Rights Movement.
The second building is the Legacy Building, formerly a boarding house from which the shot that killed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was allegedly fired. The building’s second floor documents the investigation of the assassination, the case against James Earl Ray, and ensuing conspiracy theories. Its first-floor exhibits explain the American Civil Rights Movement’s “impact on human rights efforts globally and end with a call to action for all to continue the legacy of the American Civil Rights Movement.”
Solidarity Now! 1968 Poor People’s Campaign
The free admission on Tuesday, June 21 includes access to the Solidarity Now! 1968 Poor People’s Campaign exhibit. The traveling exhibit, which was organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, “illuminates the often-overlooked history of the multicultural movement that confronted poverty and redefined social justice and activism in America,” the National Civil Rights Museum explains.
“In the 1960s, as the United States emerged as a global model of wealth and democracy, an estimated 25 million Americans lived in poverty,” the museum explains. “From the elderly and underemployed, to children and persons with disabilities, poverty affected people of every race, age, and religion.”
Addressing poverty was King’s final movement, so his wife, Coretta Scott King, and Ralph Abernathy launched the Poor People’s Campaign in his honor at the Lorraine Motel on May 2, 1968.
Thousands of people occupied a “city of hope” on 15 acres between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. for 6 weeks “to call the nation’s attention to the crippling effects of poverty for millions of Americans.” That protest site was called Resurrection City.
The Solidarity Now! exhibit uses photographs, oral histories taken from campaign participants and organizers, protest signs, political buttons, and audio field recordings collected during the campaign to “explore the significance of the tactics and impact of this campaign.”
The National Civil Rights Museum has issued a call for artifacts and oral history interviews with people who participated in the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign, or people whose families were present during the campaign.
On June 21, the museum will record interviews on-demand. Appointments may also be scheduled for the interviews. Those stories may then be added to the museum’s collection and shared on the museum’s digital platforms while the Solidarity Now! exhibition is on display through July 31.
You can learn more about the Solidarity Now! exhibit here.
You can learn more about the National Civil Rights Museum, including how to plan your visit, here.
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