ATLANTA (AP) — A new museum about the history of civil rights opens next week in Atlanta, the city where Martin Luther King Jr. was based. But the National Center for Civil and Human Rights also explores other human rights struggles, from women’s rights and LGBT issues to immigration and child labor.
The museum devotes separate galleries to modern human rights issues and the U.S. civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s, but also demonstrates how the struggles are related. Visitors learn through interactive exhibits and stories of real people.
Permanent exhibits include a timeline about the civil rights movement and King’s personal papers, but the museum also has a changing series of displays about ongoing struggles worldwide. The museum sits at one end of Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta, near attractions like the Georgia Aquarium and World of Coca-Cola.
The museum was established in part to connect the movement’s legacy to the present day, said CEO Doug Shipman, a sentiment shared by King’s daughter Bernice.
“I think it’s important that those of us who have knowledge of the civil rights movement, that we continue to connect the dots for the next generation, that we not only share the stories of history but try to relate some of what happened in the ’50s and ’60s to the now,” said Bernice King.
One particularly emotional exhibit looks at the civil rights movement’s lunch-counter protests, in which black students staged sit-ins, demanding to be served food alongside whites. When visitors don headphones and place their hands on a lunch counter, they hear increasingly intense taunts and threats endured by protesters.
Another exhibit showcases the 1963 March on Washington. Snippets of famous speeches made that day — like King’s “I Have a Dream” speech — can be heard, but more engaging is a series of images projected in a space that mimics the Lincoln Memorial, where the march culminated. Photos and video clips show people preparing for the march, participants waving signs, civil rights leaders speaking and audience reaction.
“We’re trying to produce the feeling, ‘I wish I was there,'” Shipman said. Full audio of speeches and text panels about the march are also displayed.
Other highlights of the civil rights section include rotating exhibits of King’s papers in an intimate room where “I Have a Dream” is projected on the wall in 25 different languages; mug shots of Freedom Riders shown on the exterior of a bus that doubles as a theater showing a film about the riders; and exhibits about those who died in the struggle as well as Atlanta’s role in the movement.
While the civil rights sections look back at history, the human rights gallery has a more contemporary focus. Here visitors are invited to identify with particular human rights struggles using interactive mirrors, followed by a primer on human rights. Activists selected by the advocacy group Human Rights Watch are shown in nearly life-size photos representing immigrant rights and disability rights in the U.S.; women’s rights in Iran; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights in Russia; and HIV/AIDS issues in China.
Also featured: a who’s who of human rights activists — Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mahatma Gandhi — along with a lineup of villains — Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Pol Pot.
Another exhibit explores the ethical footprint of consumer products. It explains that workers who harvest cut flowers are sometimes exposed to dangerous pesticides; that cellphones contain minerals that are sometimes at the root of violent conflicts; and that products like cocoa and soccer balls are sometimes made by child laborers in oppressive conditions.
Shipman said the museum won’t shy away from controversial topics but also is not going to pick sides.
“We want to be a place to have a very tough conversation in a civil way,” he said.
The building symbolizes its theme. Curved exterior walls resemble hands coming together. The green grass roof evokes parks and squares where protests often occur. Exterior panels in neutral shades of tan and brown fit together, representing individual pieces comprising a whole. Walls of windows at each end signify openness to the outside.
Notable Folks in Politics & Civil Rights Who Passed in 2013
1. James Hood, Civil Rights1 of 46
2. Richard Turnley Jr., Politics2 of 46
3. Hattie Harrison, Politics3 of 46
4. Cardiss Collins, Politics4 of 46
5. Essie Mae Washington-Williams, Politics5 of 46
6. Joe Gardner, Politics6 of 46
7. Larcenia Bullard, Politics7 of 46
8. James M. Nabrit, III, Civil Rights8 of 46
9. Lillie B. Avers, Civil Rights9 of 46
10. James Elbert Lewis, Sr., Civil Rights10 of 46
11. Estella Diggs, Politics11 of 46
12. James L. Tolbert, Civil Rights12 of 46
13. Gary L. Lancaster, Politics13 of 46
14. Maxine A. Smith, Civil Rights14 of 46
15. Alton T. Lemon, Civil Rights15 of 46
16. Malcolm Shabazz, Civil Rights16 of 46
17. Nimrod Q. Reynolds, Civil Rights17 of 46
18. Rudy Clay, Politics18 of 46
19. Rena Price, Civil Rights19 of 46
20. Timothy S. de'Clouet, Politics20 of 46
21. William H. Gray, III, Politician21 of 46
22. Willie Loius, Civil Rights22 of 46
23. Lois DeBerry, Politics23 of 46
24. Lillian Bonner Sutson, Civil Rights24 of 46
25. Quincy Murphy, Politics25 of 46
26. Julius Chambers, Civil Rights26 of 46
27. Lois Hill Hale, Politics27 of 46
28. Bill Lynch, Politics28 of 46
29. Simeon Golar, Civil Rights & Politics29 of 46
30. Hussein Samatar, Politics30 of 46
31. Demetrius Newton, Civil Rights31 of 46
32. Cecil Ferguson, Civil Rights32 of 46
33. Michael Moses Ward, Civil Rights33 of 46
34. Arlam Carr, Jr., Civil Rights34 of 46
35. Evelyn Lowery, Civil Rights35 of 46
36. John Patrick Julien, Politics36 of 46
37. Joe Rogers, Politics37 of 46
38. Cary Booker, Politics38 of 46
39. Ruby Cole Session, Civil Rights39 of 46
40. Augusta 'Gussie' Clark, Politics40 of 46
41. Major Owens, Politics41 of 46
42. Rev. Eugene S. Callender, Civil Rights42 of 46
43. Rev. T.J. Jemison, Civil Rights43 of 46
44. Nelson Mandela, Civil Rights & Politics44 of 46
45. Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, Politics & Advocate45 of 46
46. William L. Mallory, Politics46 of 46
Notable Folks We Lost in 2012: Civil Rights
1. Trayvon Martin1 of 12
2. Robert Carter2 of 12
3. Geraldine Washington3 of 12
4. Una Mulzac4 of 12
5. Patricia Stephens Due5 of 12
6. John Payton6 of 12
7. Rev. Addie L. Wyatt7 of 12
8. Rev. Hamel Hartford Brookins8 of 12
9. Willis Edwards9 of 12
10. Thelma McWilliams Glass10 of 12
11. Lawrence Guyot11 of 12
12. Jakes Gerwel12 of 12
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(Photo Source: AP)