The National Civil Rights Museum is tucked down a side street in Memphis. It appears, at first, to be an unassuming motel with a dated, albeit well kept, facade. The buildings power lies in the individuals understanding of the African-American Civil Rights Movement and the pivotal role an occupant of the building played.
As mentioned in my last post, the museum was built around the motel in which Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated in April of 1968. The original interior of the room King stayed in has been meticulously reconstructed to replicate the exact placing of objects and furnishings from that night, the exterior is much the same except for one anomaly; a wreath marking the approximate place King was shot and killed.
In 2013 I wrote a blog about a play I saw in Melbourne called The Mountaintop. The play centered on the final hours of King’s life and caught me by surprise. I cried as King was drawn away from the living world into another and continued to cry as images of civil rights flashed across the screen. I was so moved that I saw it twice and would have seen it a third time if I’d had the chance. Visiting the Lorraine Motel brought that experience and the significance of that night to the fore. I caught my breath when I eventually laid eyes on the Motel and reluctantly stepped away after staring at what seemed like a manifestation of history within the present; a moment in a place that resonated and continues to resonate in American culture and for people around the world.
After a few hours spent in Memphis we hit the road again for one of our shorter stops on the way to a greater destination. Our next stop was Natchez, after cracking numerous jokes about things ‘Natchez’ belonging to people we arrived late at night, found beds and collapsed in a heap.
In the morning we woke early and found ourselves in a small, cute town located on the Mississippi river. The town has a decently sized population (over 15,000 people) yet feels quite deserted and empty. We breakfasted at the Natchez Coffee Co where I had a hilarious conversation with the server who explained in a southern drawl that there are only two things to do in Natchez… ‘go to the movies, and go to the movies’. She was younger than me and assumed I was a similar age, she was genuinely shocked to discover I was at least five or so years older and exclaimed that I looked like a child.
After breakfast we made our way down to the Mississippi, checked our rental cars oil, danced on the banks of the river and jumped back in the car for another day of driving. Our next stop was Austin, TX and it deserves a blog post of its own.