If you're as old as I am, you remember the assassinations of three prominent political figures that occurred in the 1960s in America. Martin Luther King was murdered at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where he had come to support sanitation workers in their strike against the city. The Lorraine Motel is now home to the National Civil Rights Museum. Debbie and I visited it this month. It was a moving experience.
The exhibits began on the west coast of Africa, where a boatload of shackled slaves embarked on a long, sometimes dangerous journey across the Atlantic Ocean to a foreign land, America. They would be sold to the highest bidder. We followed them through the museum and hard labor on plantations, then to the Jim Crow South, where the Ku Klux Klan performed lynchings with no fear of reprisal or prosecution for their heinous acts. I could hear my wife's sniffles beside me.
In another room, audio from landmark court cases penetrated the silence. Segregation shaped the journey into the twentieth century, which led to strife over busing to integrate schools and peaceful protests that sometimes turned violent. There were sit-ins at diners, a transportation system boycott, and the "Freedom Riders."
The tour at the Lorraine motel culminated at the room where Martin Luther King stayed the night before he was killed. This looks like rooms I've stayed in over the years, I thought. Nothing fancy here for such an influential man.
The museum tour continued across the street, where patrons learned the series of events that led the assassin, James Earl Ray, to a window through which he pointed a rifle equipped with a high-power scope.
We left the museum with a sense of sadness at the brutality that had happened but also with hope for the future, for it was clear that civil rights in America is better off now than it was in the past. One thing is certain: with the sinfulness of humanity, and our lust for power and money, atrocities and injustices will continue. Yet redemption is always possible when God's Spirit is allowed its rightful place in our hearts.
I highly recommend a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. Allow plenty of time to soak it in, a minimum of four hours. It will touch your heart.