Memphis is a town made of and full of SOUL! When I say SOUL, I am speaking of that unseen place within us all where senses converge with the heart , the mind and the intellect to create a pleasant and pride-filled sensation that cannot quite be described by mere words.
One of my favorite places to visit in Memphis is the National Civil Rights Museum, located just off the infamous Beale Street in downtown Memphis. Here I walked the halls of the Lorraine Motel, where the awsome leader Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot as he stepped out on the balcony, pehaps to contemplate the heavy load on his shoulders as leader of the Civil Rights Movement ,or perhaps to simply smoke a cigarette.
With my daughters hand in mine, we walked the halls of the museum and saw so much. The darkened halls taught us how far we have come as a nation to overcome wrongs, and how hard the battles were.We read a brief despription of Francis Wright, the woman way ahead of her times that started a plantation in Germantown, east of Memphis in 1825 with the ideal that blacks and white could work together as equals. We learned Ms. Wrights plantation failed due to her own illness, but her ideals lived on. Her speeches and writings helped fuel the Women's Suffrage Movement. I realized that I am lucky to only have to imagine what it would be like not to be able to vote.
Next we passed displays of slavery. The sights of artifacts and remembrance of what we had done to human beings made me ashamed. My daughter questioned me and asked why we ever had slaves. I didn't know how to answer that other than to tell her that evil is a fact of life and it is very important that good people work together to change what needs to be changed, and never give up.
Moments later, we were sitting on the bus Rosa Parks sat on in Alabama when she refused to give her seat up for a white man.We strolled the halls and stopped to watch films and listen to the great oratory voice of Dr.King. We saw a garbage truck that killed Memphis Sanitation workers and catapulted them to organize and begin a strike that lasted a month and brought Dr. King to Memphis. We gazed at their signs declaring"I am a Man," and felt as if time had turned backwards looking through a window into the simple hotel room Dr. King stayed in on his last fateful visit to Memphis over forty years ago.
Across the street we entered the boarding house James Earl Ray stayed in,traversed old and worn stairs to see his simple room, and the window of the bathroom through which he shot Dr. King. Together we read the time-line of events leading up to Dr. King's death and the trial of James Earl Ray.Touring the museum evoked much emotion and sadness that for so long people were wronged because of what they looked like, because of ignorance,and because for a very long time many good people were afraid of change, and because the evil among us wanted power and control.
As our tour ended, we were somber but enlightened and inspired. We were sad for all that had happened, and so very sorry for all the pain our nation had endured.Boldly stepping from the museum into the warm, bright Memphis sunshine, we walked hand in hand the distance required to catch the trolley to Beale Street. My little girl smiled as she handed the driver a dollar for the ride, then took a seat and began chatting briefly with other passengers. Through the windows we saw people of all colors walking the sidewalks.
As we approached our destination, we heard the music drifting through the air, and the smell of southern cooking from charming restaurants tickled our nostrils. Stepping off the trolley,once again into the beaming sun, my little girl paused and said,"I love downtown Memphis. It is fun and exciting and colorful. I am glad it is not like it used to be.I know why they call that music the "Blues." I smiled and said,"me, too." Then we ran to catch a horse-drawn carriage shaped just like Cinderella's with anticipation of more lessons to learn and sights to see before supper at one of the many charming restaurants.
We had a wonderful day and learned so much. I highly recommend a trip to the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis! Come experience the soul of Memphis for yourself.
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