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Civil Rights Museum - A must experience

MOLLIE F. BELT | 8/4/2014, 10 a.m.
The new Center for Civil and Human Rights Museum – referred to as the Civil Rights Museum by the community ...
Mollie Finch Belt, publisher of The Dallas Examiner

The Dallas Examiner

The new Center for Civil and Human Rights Museum – referred to as the Civil Rights Museum by the community – that opened in Atlanta, Georgia, July 1 is a must to experience.

There are three galleries.

The first floor houses the Voice to the Voiceless: The Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection. This gallery features a rotating exhibition of items from The Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection. Personal papers including King’s report card at Crozer Theological Seminary and other personal items of his are on display.

The second floor houses the Rolls Down Like Water: The American Civil Rights Movement. This gallery presents the brave fight for equality in the American Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. You experience the sights, sounds and interactive displays depicting the courageous struggles of individuals working to transform the United States from Jim Crow laws to equal rights for all.

The third floor houses the Spark of Conviction: The Global Human Rights. This gallery connects the world of human rights and features human rights issues and how they affect the lives of every person, such as immigration, sexual abuse, HIV/AIDS, the LBGT community and more.

Having grown up during the Civil Rights Movement and experienced it first hand, the civil rights gallery emulates the movement more than the civil rights museum in Memphis and even the series Eyes on the Prize.

The gallery has live videos of segregationists being interviewed justifying the separation of Blacks and Whites. One segregationist compared the mixing of Black and White people with the mixing of Black and White chickens – he declared it never works.

But probably the most moving part of the museum is the simulation of the lunch counter that so many civil rights workers integrated during the movement.

You can actually sit at the lunch counter and put both hands on the counter. The experience takes you back in time when you put on the earphones provided and close your eyes. For approximately three minutes, you hear the voices of White men shouting “N*,” calling you ugly names and saying they are going to hurt you if you don’t move from the counter, etc. You actually virtually experience what the students went through when they refused to move from their seats at the lunch counters … sitting through the humiliation, cigar and cigarette burns on their backs.

I wish every young person in Dallas could experience this museum. Reading about the movement, even seeing tapes of the movement, are not as real as being at this lunch counter.

There are familiar photos of the movement throughout the gallery. However, there are some things you probably have not seen. For example, there is a video on a television screen about the role President Lyndon B. Johnson played in passage of the Civil Rights Bill of 1964.

Above the screen is written a quote from Johnson’s speech before the joint session of congress on March 15, 1965, where he said:

“There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem.”

We need to remember this statement today. As the famous theory goes, there are generally only six degrees of separation – or less – between strangers. That means, as a country, our actions and choices inevitably affect each other. When Harriet Tubman helped slaves escape slavery in the South, she helped change the demographics of America. As King stood up for the rights of African Americans, he was standing up for the rights of all men and women of color. When Emmitt Till, James Bird Jr. and Trayvon Martin were brutally murdered, our souls ached as if they were our sons or our brothers.

The problems our country faces with racial injustice is more than a Black problem, it is an “American Problem.” The disparities that exist for Blacks in health care, employment, business opportunities, etc., is an American problem. As we resolve these problems, we will have a better America where there is truly equality for all.