MLK Museum: Dallas’ newest African American museum

Michael McGee | 3/10/2014, 8:26 a.m. | Updated on 3/17/2014, 3:26 p.m.
“People were not allowed to sit at the counters and be served their food at times,” said Ann Erving, as ...
Main photo: Visitors explore the new Martin Luther King Jr. Museum, located in Building A of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center. Small photo: Shackles at the museum are a physical reminder of the brutality Black ancestors endured. Mike McGee

The Dallas Examiner

“People were not allowed to sit at the counters and be served their food at times,” said Ann Erving, as she read aloud from Child of the Civil Rights Movement to visiting preschool children.

As she held up the children’s book – a work depicting the African American struggle for equal rights – Erving not only read the words upon the page and turned the illustrations toward the youngsters’ curious eyes but also sprinkled into the story what it was like to have lived during that period of social change.

“It was not fair,” she explained. “It was wrong.”

Erving, a volunteer with the Martin Luther King Jr. Museum, read to the young group in Dallas’ newest museum and tribute to the lives and works of civil rights activists. Having opened last month, during Black History Month, the permanent collection is encased in a large room within Building A of the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, located at 2922 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

The mission of the museum is to keep fresh the history of the Civil Rights Movement, while also focusing on the future, said Emma Rodgers, who was part of the leadership team that helped create the museum. She explained how the museum is especially important to today’s youth.

“We have to teach them about our history so that they won’t make those mistakes, they’ll build upon history, and move forward.” Rodgers said. “Everybody’s fighting for civil rights or freedom somewhere, like what’s happening in Syria right now.”

Rodgers walked the floor of the museum, pointing out some of the features and attractions.

“I think what really stands out is the artwork by Frank Frazier,” Rodgers said as she gestured to large black and white works along the wall of the museum, created to capture the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement. Some painted figures hold placards; others hold rifles.

A photo of King hangs above a display of rusted shackles that formerly restrained the limbs of captured slaves. Numerous shelves contain book after book written about, or by, individuals both famous and forgotten who played their part in the struggle for equality; these are available to the public, Rodgers noted. There’s also a large kiosk featuring video and graphics about King and his endeavors toward freedom for all.

Rodgers said she was pleased that the museum would not only examine the life of King but also the lives of those who likewise worked toward his goals. Those lesser-known individuals are always examined when schoolchildren visit, said Rodgers.

“They learned a lot about the courage it took to go to places where they would try to make change when people did not want them to make change,” Rodgers said of the lessons discussed on the day of the museum’s opening.

“So we talked about that being a little scary,” she said with a pause, then reconsidered. “A lot scary.”

Rodgers stated that the museum will strive to be stimulating and thought-provoking by exploring a new theme every month. For example, at the end of March the focus will be on Cesar Chavez.