Traffic was heavier than expected driving to Memphis, and the National Civil Rights Museum closed early on Wednesday due to a security sweep, so we decided to visit the museum Thursday morning. It is complicated to realize that the place Dr. King was killed would be the place our tour would start.
When you round the corner, you realize that, although the Lorraine Motel has been converted into a museum, the back of the hotel was left exactly as it was the day Dr. King died. You need extra time just to take that in.
Dozens of people were gathered before the doors opened at 9 a.m. There was a hush in the crowd as we all stood and silently took it all in. Plaques and TV monitors quietly played film footage from the past, but as we stood in the present day, many thoughts were flooding in.
We planned to visit this museum for just a short time, but when the doors opened, we began self-guided tours that lasted for several hours. We could have stayed there several days. There was so much to see and to consider. One of the things the museum did was help us understand some of the roots of slavery and the degradation of blacks as well as some of the seeds of hatred that could lead to a man killing another man over color. The second room of the museum traced slavery using lights, maps, and the economy. It showed the high impact subjugation of “the other” has played in this sad history — from Africa to the Carolinas to production of tobacco, rice, cotton products, and building of the White House. It was hard to see. It was impossible to ignore. It is unbelievable that some took their actions as in any way helpful to those forced into servitude. Literally an entire economy was built on the backs of others. When one stood for nonviolent protest, the response? Kill him, too. Reading Romans 12:17-21, I’m reminded of God’s remedy. We need strength to be more like Jesus.