Thursday, June 11, 2020

Virtual Experiences: United States Civil Rights Museums

We support equity for all and specifically, the Black Lives Matter movement. We compiled this list of civil rights museums with virtual resources for those interested in learning more about the long history of systemic racism in the United States. 

The United States Civil Right Trail has an online gallery of sites and settings across 14 states that have contributed to the nation’s civil rights narrative. Click on each picture to learn the significance of the site. 

The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture located in Washington, D.C. recently released a “Talking About Race” Web Portal which provides participants with tools and guidance to understand and inspire conversation on the issues of Race, Racism, and Racial Identity. The Museum also offers a Digital Resource Guide to explore, learn and engage with the museum.

The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park is located in Atlanta, Georgia. The park consists of several buildings including his boyhood home, and Ebenezer Baptist Church where King was baptized and where he and his father were pastors. The National Park Service offers a guided virtual tour of the birth home of Martin Luther King, Jr., click here to learn what Dr. King's life was like as a young boy.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute in downtown Birmingham, AL is located in the heart of one of the most violent civil rights battlegrounds. Martin Luther King, Jr. called Birmingham the most segregated city in the country and he was jailed here for leading civil rights demonstrations. The museum is currently closed due to COVID-19, but they are offering 25 lesson plans for K-12 students about the Civil Rights Movement online. 

On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr., was shot and killed while standing on the balcony at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, TN. After King’s death the hotel went into decline and eventually closed. In 1991 the site reopened and became the National Civil Rights Museum. During its COVID closing the museum is offering virtual programs as well as its Small But Mighty Storytime online. Geared towards families and children, Small but Mighty Storytime focuses on peacemaking, kindness, diversity, and creating positive social change.

The Rosa Parks Museum is located at Troy University in Alabama. Several items related to her famous protest of bus segregation in Montgomery can be found here, including her arrest records and fingerprints, 1950’s-era city bus, and a restored 1955 station wagon used to transport protestors. For a brief history of her famous protest and a tour of the museum, click here

In May of 1961, Freedom Riders stepped off a bus at the Montgomery, Alabama bus station with a goal to help end racial segregation in public transportation. These Freedom Riders were male and female, black and white, and none of them older than 22. They prepared to meet violence with non-violence, many prepared wills and farewell letters. The Freedom Rides Museum in Montgomery tells their story. During the museum's temporary closing you can find information about the Freedom Riders and live educational events on their Facebook page

The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum takes a look at the history of racial violence in the state including the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till, Medger Evers who established the office of the NAACP in Jackson and was assassinated in his own driveway and the abduction and murder of three civil rights workers in 1964. Check out this virtual tour of the museum:

The Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights whose mission is to teach the history of the Holocaust and advance human rights and combat prejudice, hatred and indifference has a special online exhibit right now, The Fight for Civil Rights in the South. The exhibit covers two prestigious photography exhibitions, the iconic march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, including the moment Martin Luther King, Jr. led more than 2,000 marchers across the Edmund Pettus Bridge and the peaceful protest in Anniston, Alabama in 1961 that turned violent with the burning of the Freedom Riders Bus.

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