NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM
ABOUT THE PROJECT
Before becoming the first permanent Civil Rights Museum in the country, the Museum at its inception had no staff or collections. EAI spent two years visiting key sites and poring through unprocessed collections to gather material, and most importantly had access to the living memories of Movement veterans such as Rosa Parks, Ralph Abernathy, Daisy Bates, John Lewis, Jesse Jackson, Betty Shabazz, and dozens of Freedom Riders and veterans of the student movement.
Opening in 1992, the National Civil Rights Museum is the first museum of its kind, exploring the question, “What, exactly, are civil rights?” Visitors leave with an understanding of how “equal treatment under the law,” “liberty and justice for all,” and “inalienable rights” have been interpreted throughout our history; and how the American Civil Rights Movement was molded by the Constitution.
We examine the tools used for change: the press, boycotts, sit-ins, marches, court battles, the NAACP, the Black Panthers, Mississippi improvement Associations, White Citizens' Councils, the KKK, federal laws, state regulations, public opinion, violent uprisings, petitions, posters, marches, prayers, speeches and Freedom Songs. And in Martin Luther King's Room 306, "Amazing Grace," the spot where King fell to an escaped convict with a heritage of hatred. The Museum has since become an international pilgrimage site for students, activists, and other visitors from around the globe.
This was the first permanent civil rights museum in the country – at the time, not a “desirable market segment”. The core exhibits have stood the test of time and retained coherence through subsequent renovations. Meeting and working with a dozens of veterans – from Rosa Parks to Ralph Abernathy to Jo Anne Robinson, Diane Nash, John Lewis, Ralph Shuttlesworth – was permanently humbling. – JERRY EISTERHOLD