Civil Rights Museum, Memphis
As soon as you enter the National Civil Rights Museum in downtown Memphis, you will be asked to surrender your camera until after you have completed the tour. Cameras are not allowed past the entrance, but you may take a photo of the wall depicting the struggle with thousands of men and women climbing their way up to the top. This photo is only a small section of the wall. Please click on it to enlarge for greater detail. Every Monday from 3:00PM - 5:00PM, all visitors are allowed free access, but no audio tapes are distributed at this time. You may browse the site at your leisure, stopping at your particular points of interest along the way. There is much to see and read, and several videos of the turbulent times and civil unrest in America. This Museum is not strictly about Memphis or Dr. Martin Luther King, although it certainly focuses on the events that transpired here.
I can remember as a child growing up in Memphis, the chaos in the city. I was only 5 years old when the shot that was heard around the world was fired, and even though I didn't understand it all, I was curious about why the National Guard were patrolling the streets in full riot gear and enforcing a curfew along my neighbo(u)rhood street. I can also vividly remember the segregation taking place at my school. I wasn't subject to being transported by bus to another school district, because I lived across the street from my elementary school, but had friends that just disappeared one day, never to be seen at school again. Although my Dad was quite prejudiced back then, I never allowed him to think for me and always looked at a person's heart, not their skin colo(u)r. I can remember standing up for all my friends, regardless of their nationality. This museum certainly brought back many childhood memories for me.
Tour length is approximately one to two hours. Please see the following website for more information, including highlights of the museum, opening hours, prices and a map of the location.
Martin Luther King came to Memphis in support of the sanitation workers strike for equal rights, and to lead peaceful demonstrations for racial equality in the South. There were many injustices throughout Memphis and the rest of the United States during the 60's and 70's. There were "White Only" restaurants, shops, toilets, and even the Memphis Museum (now known as the Pink Palace Museum) back then would only allow black students to visit one day a week on Tuesdays. There were many protests for racial equality, and many arrested for speaking out. Violence and hatred were widespread.
The National Civil Rights Museum is located at the very site Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4th, 1968 in the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. There you will see a recreation of his room as he left it along with interactive displays including the bus where Rosa Parks made her stand, (or rather would NOT stand for injustice any longer) and you can sit next to her and hear the busdriver demanding that she give up her seat or face being arrested. There are numerous films shown as you stroll through the museum at your own pace. Thousands of newspaper articles and graphic photographs of lynchings, as well as milestones in American history involving the civil rights movement as far back as the 1600's.
Also, as a part of the museum experience, you can walk across the street to the place where the fatal shot was reported to have come from. You can look out the window at the wreath where Dr. Martin Luther King stood on the balcony that fateful day. There are interactive displays with facts and assumptions leaving you to decide for yourself if James Earl Ray was guilty as charged. There are still many unanswered questions regarding the case against him.
Please see the following tip for more information...
This museum has been built out of the the Lorraine Motel, the motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed on April 4, 1968. It is a national monument to the civil rights movement. The very spot where Dr. King died, as well as the room where he stayed, have been preserved as a memorial exactly as they were when he last was there.
The museum is a shining treasure chest of civil rights history, highlighting how inadequately this subject is covered in most ,if not all, American classrooms. The exhibits are mostly solemn and require patience and thought. This is definately not a place for small children. For myself, many of the exhibits required an emotional toll, though the experience and knowledge I aquired there was well worth this price.
Across the street from the main building is the boarding house where King's assassin, James Earl Ray, stayed, laying in wait for him. You can see the very window from which the bullets were fired as well as memorabilia from Ray's personal history and criminal past.
Among the striking things during my visit to this museum was that my husband and I were the only white people in the building except for one man who was an Orthodox Jew. Native Americans, African Americans, and Hispanics were all around us, and although one can obviously understand the interest these people had in the exhibits, I found it unfortunate that more white people were not taking the time to visit. This history is the history of us all. It affects everyone living in the US today. Knowledge truly is empowering. I encourage anyone visiting Memphis to make this one of your essential stops.
Admission $6, gift shop
I have to be honest I did not know that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis and I certainly had no idea that the city had turned the Lorraine Motel that it happened in appropriately into a Civil Rights Museum. But as luck would have it, prior to the trip, I was watching the movie “Elizabethtown,”which detailed a road trip that brought the main characters to Memphis, just to visit the Motel infamous for the assassination. The U2 song “Pride” was playing and it had never dawned on me what it was about until then even though I'd heard it countless times before. It was quite powerful in the movie and I knew I'd have to see it in person someday. Well, that day came but unfortunately, there was little time to actually go into the museum and they had a photography ban for the interiors so seeing it from outside would have to suffice. It was nonetheless a profound feeling standing there and knowing a great visionary had been struck down in the prime of his life. It was particularly odd for me as it was exactly the same color and near layout as the motel my parents owned that I grew up in while in New Jersey. I will try and properly visit the museum next time in Memphis but for those not so inclined it is well worth driving by and seeing the site of the atrocity commited against mankind.
I must admit I found the second part of the Museum much more interesting than the more popular main part. I nearly missed it when I left the building and was told by one of the girls working in it not to miss the place "across the road". When I asked what was there she said: "It's the alleged place from which the alleged killer shot the alleged bullet that killed King."
That summary still best sums up what can be seen over there.
This is Memphis' equivalent to the Texas School Book Depository in Dallas, the place from which James Earl Ray, a small time crook without any deep interest in politics, - well, allegedly - shot King. There are nearly as many unanswered and controversial questions surrounding this assassination as there are with regards to Dealy Plaza and the Little Grassy Knoll: If it was him, why did Ray do it? Was he hired to commit the crime? By whom? Ray was a poor shot in the Army and it was virtually impossible to place an accurate shot from the window he was to have been behind from. Only one drunk witness ever identified Ray... after two early contradictory statements and only after the FBI paid him $30.000 worth of bar taps. Ray only confessed to the crime under pressure and later recanted. Ray himself was arrested several months afterwards at Heathrow Airport. Although he had no known source of income he had spent $25.000 while on the run.
I am a sucker for a good conspiracy theory and all possible scenarios are presented in the Museum. Even King's own family now don't appear to believe that Ray was MLK's killer and for a very short period after Ray's death in 1998 a judicial review had even reversed the initial verdict.
The truth as they say is probably still out there... though don't expect to see it revealed any time soon.
The Lorraine Motel, the scene of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., has fittingly been made into a museum that chronicles the fight for civil rights for African-Americans beginning in the 17th century. The motel has been preserved and looks just as it does in the famous B&W photo of King collegues pointing towards the direction of the gunshot from the second floor balcony. The exhibits are very well done with wonderful displays including a bus with a figure of Rosa Parks sitting near the front and a recording of a threatening bus driver; a Woolworth's counter that was the scene of sit-ins, and stirring TV footage related to the integration of Central High School in Little Rock. It's amazing and sad to me that these events happened during my lifetime. There is also a very well-done audio tour narrated by Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. The walk through the exhibits culminates in a viewing of the motel room from where Dr. King emerged moments before he was shot.
The second part of the tour takes you across the street and examines the investigation that followed with timelines, actual evidence, and the bathroom in the boarding house from which James Earl Ray allgeedly fired the fatal shot. Also presented are various conspiracy theories and the evidence that supports them
A very well-done museum and a must-see for any visitor to Memphis.
at the Civil Rights Museum. It's hard to describe the depths of emotion I felt here. You'll just have to visit the converted Lorraine Hotel where Dr. Martin Luther King spent his final moments on Earth. The museum was founded in 1991, with costs over just 9 million. Visitors can follow a well layout timeline of the American civil rights struggle, stemming from the 1600s when black slavery was institutionalized through the heights of the civil rights movemnts in the latter part of the 1900s. Though the museum highlights King heavily, numerous crusaders are praised. The museums actually consists of two buildings, one is the original Lorraine Hotel site, and the other building is where King assassinator, Lee Harvey Oswald shot the civil rights leader.
Several of the exhibits are just haunting and may shock some visitors, especially those not so familiar with the battle tested American civil rights movement. One can't help but to shed some tears viewing the sit-in display of protesters and of the area where one can stand just a few feet away from where King's life was snuff out prematurely.
No photography allowed in the museums. Cameras should be left in the car or with lobby area in front of museum.
Hours (for summer):
Monday-Saturday 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Free Time (Mondays): 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. for Tenneessee residents only
Sunday 1 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Closed on Tuesdays
Students w/id $10.00
Children 4-17 years $8.50
3 and under Free
The Memphis tour drove us by this museum - we did not go in. The first picture I took through the van window and is the only one I have of the Civil Rights Museum protester. She has a street stand where she sits whenever the museum is open. She apparently makes a pretty good living here -- according to the tour guide, she was a guest in the Lorraine Motel when King was shot, and she objected to being evicted so that they could make a museum of it.
Unfortunately, when I went back the next day (Tuesday) to get a better picture of her, the museum was closed and so she was not there.
The ring on the balcony in the second picture is where M. L. King was standing when he was shot. The third picture shows the cars which were parked in the hotel lot at the time of the assassination including a limo
In addition to the section of the museum that is in the motel, (Room 306 and 307 are just as they were when Dr. King was assassinated in 1968) there is an additional part in the Young and Morrow building and the 420 Main Street rooming house where the fatal shot was allegedly fired by James Earl Ray. This section was opened in 2002.
Hours of Operation:
Monday-Saturday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Free Time (Mondays): 3 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Sunday 1 p.m. – 5 p.m.
Closed on Tuesdays
Summer Hours ( June – August)
Monday-Saturday 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Free Time (Mondays): 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Sunday 1 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Closed on Tuesdays
Students w/id $10.00
Children 4-17 years $8.50
3 and under Free
in modern times the most significant event in the history of memphis was the assassination of martin luther king jr. in 1968. martin luther king was a frequent visitor at the lorraine motel when he visited memphis. james earl ray had been stalking king and found a bathroom window in the young and morrow building across the street from the motel with a clear view of king's room. on april 4 th 1968 king was standing on the balcony outside of room 306 when he was shot by ray. ray escaped but was captured a couple of months later at heathrow airport in london. james earl ray was tried and convicted of king's murder and received a 99 year prison sentence. today the lorraine motel is part of the national civil rights museum. for those interested in civil rights history the national civil rights museum is a must see site in memphis.
The National Civil Rights Museum is based in the Lorraine Motel, the place where Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 while standing outside of rooms 306 and 307.
Rather than have the place be bulldozed down in the early 1980s, a consortium got together to keep this historic building intact and throughout the years it was gradually transformed into the museum that it is now known as.
Though the museum does have its original pieces - enter a bus and imagine what it was like to be segregated - most of its artefacts in the main part of the building are reproduced photos and video clips and the overall experience is very text heavy and one sometimes can't help feeling that reading a book about the history of National Civil Rights would have had an equal effect. It may be stating the obvious, but the exhibition also centres very much on Martin Luther King's impact with relatively little info on the likes of Malcolm X and subsequent leaders in this area.
The biggest impact to get out of this museum is the fact that all of these events happened in living memory and I am not talking about living memory as in "moribund octogenarian tells his great-grand-kids about what it was like in the olden days". Pretty much every one in their late 30s would still be able to remember these troubled times. Quite hard to contemplate how a nation that prides itself for the importance of Freedom, allowed such blatant breaches of basic human rights to a vast majority of her citizens.
There are detractors for this museum. One of them has kept a very steady, lonely daily watch outside for the best part of two decades now.
at a window in the rear of the young and morrow building james earl ray shot and killed martin luther king jr. on april 4 th 1968. today the young and morrow building is part of the national civil rights museum.
the lorraine motel, where martin luther king, jr., was assassinated, has been turned into the national civil rights museum, with a terrific history of this country's treatment of black people for the last four hundred years.
although it is thought-provoking and a very serious place, i did not find it to be depressing. instead, it shows the courage of people when they are fighting for something they really believe in, no matter how strong the opposition. it includes originals of letters, films, and photographs depicting, in particular, the civil rights struggles of the 1960s. these make the events of the time extremely personal and real.
the room where martin luther king, jr., stayed before he was killed has been preserved as it was at that time.
you can contribute to the museum by buying a brick with your name on it for the walkway in the front of the museum. depending on size, it costs $25-$100.
This museum is located on the site where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assasinated in 1968 (the old Lorraine Motel). Shows a very comprehensive view of the struggles of the civil rights movement. Rooms 306 (and I think 307) are made up to look like he had left it, complete with half empty cups of coffee, garbage in the trashcan, and rumpled sheets.
Here, at the Lorraine Motel, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, as he sought to support the striking Sanitation Workers. Here, you can walk through American History in a way not experienced by the leaders of this nation, you'll be with the workers and minorities. You'll see the drama of the events and the risks taken by African-Americans to be seen as full members of society.
In addition, you'll look into the assassination of Dr. King, the controversies and supposed conspiracies. All will be examined from every angle. For all Americans and international visitors, this is an eye-opening look into a past that was not seen by many and avoided by some.
The Lorraine Motel, site of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4, 1968, is the location of the National Civil Rights Museum, which also includes the boarding house from which James Earl Ray fired the lethal shot. This was a very interesting and moving visit - literally standing in the footprint of history.
You can see the Lorraine Motel, and get some great photos of the balcony in front of Room 306 where Dr. King died, without paying and admission fee - it is an "open air museum". However, the $10 adult admission gets you access to the museum which has a great film which gives you the background and timeline for the activities of Dr. King, and to the many exhibits of evidence used in the trial against Dr. King's murderer - including the room where he stayed and the bathroom from which the shot was fired. I got goosebumps looking through the window and seeing the wreath marking the spot where Dr. King was shot...
*** Discounted tickets are available at the Memphis Visitor's Centers if you wish to buy them in advance.