Civil Rights Museum Testifies to Struggle for Racial Equality

Nick Bumgardner, Staff Writer, Advanced Journalism

Few experiences in my life have been as rewarding as my visit to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee.

As part of the 2020 Notre Dame band trip, 68 students, myself included, visited the museum while in Memphis.

Situated in the heart of the city, the historic Lorraine Motel, the site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assasination in 1968, dwarfed all buildings around it, not because of its physical size, but instead because of what it represented.

The National Civil Rights Museum was something more than just a building.  It was an immortal testament to the grueling struggle for equality for African-Americans.

Inside the museum, the painful, 400+ year struggle for civil rights was on full display.

It told the story of the early days of slavery in America, the political and social turmoil of the Civil War, and the civil rights movement that spread across the country from the 1950s-1960s.

Thousands of display cases, picture frames, artifacts and interactive exhibits were scattered throughout the building.

Speeches from prominent civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Jesse Jackson, Malcom X, Rep. John Lewis, and Rep. Elijah Cummings played throughout the exhibits.

With every step, I was consumed by the history on display.

The exhibits took me back to a dark, painful time in America’s history, that, in many ways, we never escaped.

The horrors of Jim Crow, the KKK, the lynching of African Americans, and “racial etiquette” still have a prfound impact on our society today.

It’s why institutions like the National Civil Rights Museum are so important.

They serve as reminders of a dark past, and a reminder that the fight is far from over.

Unless we build on the advances of the civil rights movement and remember how far we’ve come, we risk falling victim to the same racism and divisiveness that once separated us.