MLK’s hotel, as it was in 1968
Stand on the balcony where Martin Luther King, Jr. last stood.
Step outside the modern Rock and Soul Museum in Memphis and look across the street, and you’ll see an incongruous sight. There stands a two-story, concrete-block, green-and-white motel from another time, with a huge white wreath hanging from its second-story balcony. A boxy ‘60s-era white Cadillac and a finned Chevy are parked beneath it.
The wreath marks the spot where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated at age 39 on April 4, 1968, as he stood on that balcony outside his room, No. 306.
For years, the Lorraine Motel was one of the few places that allowed African American travelers to stay and enjoy a good meal. It was a regular stop for songwriters and musicians like Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and Otis Redding when they were recording for Memphis’ famed Stax Records company. In town to suppport striking sanitation workers in the spring of 1968, Dr. King spent the last days — and last moments — of his life at the Lorraine, strategizing with close friends like Jesse Jackson, Jr. and Ralph Abernathy.
The motel today houses the National Civil Rights Museum. Visitors have been invited to enter King’s room, which has been precisely recreated with artifacts from the era, and this year for the first time visitors can also tour the balcony where King was gunned down when James Earl Ray fired from a dilapidated rooming house across the street. In a gesture of respect and taste, the local community years ago replaced the concrete square stained with Dr. King’s blood.
The rooming house is also part of the museum today. It contains a new exhibit that allows visitors to see where Ray stayed, the bathroom window from which it is believed he fired, and evidence recovered at the scene that led to Ray’s capture and arrest. A gate at the entrance is inscribed with a prophetic quote from King’s “Mountaintop” speech, which he delivered the day before his assassination: “I may not get there with you, but we as a people will get to the Promised Land.”
The museum’s many moving exhibits provide a detailed timeline of the civil rights struggle, concentrating on seminal events of the 1950s and 1960s. Included is a replica of the jail cell from which King wrote his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus where a figure of Rosa Parks is seated. When visitors try to sit down, they are admonished with shouts of, “Hey! You can’t sit there!” and “Go to the back of the bus!”
“We see visitors’ faces as they register the pain, the injustice and rejoice in every victory earned along the journey,” says a statement on the museum’s site. “We share their tears as they realize why leaders like Dr. King gave everything for the world we live in today.”
More from MSN:
Obama speech sets stage for looming policy fights
Obama kicks off second term at public inauguration
Your 2013 bargain calendar
25 things that will keep you young
10 secrets hidden on the $100 bill
New library to be book-less
Photos: Courtesy of www.civilrightsmuseum.org; Stephen Saks/Getty Images
inspire: live a better life
A look back on all of the tiny tasks that 30 years of technology has saved you from.
What sets you apart from everyone else looking for a new job or bigger paycheck? Your profile!
With all those deals you snagged on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, today is your chance to give back to those in need with #GivingTuesday.
Miss Manners provides guidance on how to handle a request for party contributions
Miss Manners instructs on why tit-for-tat never works
Miss Manners offers thoughts on guests who disregard dinner party instructions
Rinse and repeat.
Make big bucks, from home, having fun? These women got creative and figured out a way to have it all. You can too.
Your boss. You might like her, you probably respect her, but do you know how to approach someone who seems so different from you? (Spoiler: She’s actually not.)
Over the weekend, Oprah decluttered her Montecito mansion and three other properties in a Santa Barbara yard sale that brought in more than $600,000(!). (Proceeds will benefit her girls’ leadership academy in South Africa, and not half of a Crate and Barrel chair, the traditional end goal of yard-sale proceeds.)
Exclusively for MSN, we bring you a six-part series from the new book: MISS MANNERS MINDS YOUR BUSINESS by Judith and Nicholas Ivor Martin.
Miss Manners weighs in on the financial burdens of remote weddings