National Center for Civil and Human Rights opens

By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer

civil rights
The museum’s exhibits explore civil rights issues that go beyond the African-American Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King, Jr., encouraging visitors to take action in helping the world become a more inclusive place.

From 1954-1968, the African-American Civil Rights Movement fought for equal treatment of blacks, and led to major laws like the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These changes, which were brought about by massive protests, government leadership, and inspiring figures like Martin Luther King, Jr., prohibited discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, or religion. Now, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights has opened in Martin Luther King’s old hometown, Atlanta, Georgia, where it honors past and present struggles in a state once deeply divided by race.

The building itself was designed to symbolically appear like two linked hands, with the outside walls blending a mix of browns and tans to represent the equality of all skin colors. Inside the mega 43,000-square-foot museum, exhibits blend artwork, technology, and interactive displays to showcase the passionate battles that led to historic civil rights advances.

Ford Bell, president of the American Alliance of Museums, believes museums serve a very important purpose in educating and engaging citizens. “Museums are the way that we often address important issues in our society, where we talk about them together,” said Bell. “We as a society are still wrestling with issues related to human rights and civil rights, and a painful history.”

The large galleries and beautiful exterior of the $103 million museum took 10 years of planning and building to complete. It all began when former United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young and civil rights activist Evelyn Lowery approached then-Mayor Shirley Franklin with the idea. Franklin, who is now the board chairwoman of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, explains, “Atlanta has claimed a position for itself, historically, as a place where people grapple with human issues, fairness issues, justice issues. Atlanta has claimed its history for itself.”

Images courtesy of National Center for Civil and Human Rights.