Raising Heritage Stakes Through Civil Rights Museum
IN 2014 and with just a 10-dollar entrance fee, the Centre for Civil and Human Rights opened its doors, as a civil rights museum, helping to shine a spotlight on Atlanta, Georgia, as a city in the United States of America that is known as the cradle of civil rights movement.
Located in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, the museum opened to the public on June 23, 2014. With stunning visuals, intentional heart-wrenching sounds that aims to remind visitors of the pains that went with the civil rights struggle, the museum brief cinema themes the perception of “controlled chaos of white supremacy and control” scenario that had viewers on the edge of their seats.
The centre was initially conceived by Evelyn Lowery, the wife of Joseph Lowery, and Juanita Abernathy, the widow of Ralph David Abernathy, along with former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young and longtime house of representative John Lewis, all of whom were part of the movement to grant civil rights to African-Americans during the 1960s.
The Lowerys met with then-Mayor Shirley Franklin in 2001, who was warm to the concept of a museum honoring Atlanta’s civil rights history but, due to more pressing issues with the city’s finances, was unable to offer much more than that at the time.
The group met again in 2005, at which point Franklin signed onto the project, and the Center for Civil and Human Rights was established, in 2007, along with its initial fundraising efforts.
Five architectural firms presented their proposals in 2009, with the Center ultimately selecting a design by architect Philip Freelon for a 90,000-square-foot (8,400 m2) museum that would break ground in 2010 and open in 2012.
The 2.5-acre (1.0 hectares) site for the museum, at Pemberton Place, was donated by The Coca-Cola Company and placed the museum adjacent to three popular tourist attractions, the Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coca-Cola and Centennial Olympic Park.
Atlanta as a ‘Living Legacy’ was a center of action during the American civil rights movement and served as a progressive gathering place for many influential leaders and elder statesmen who helped shape history like Ambassador Andrew Young, Xernona Clayton, Reverend Joseph Lowery and John Lewis.
The center is a ‘world class’ cultural institution dedicated to exploring stories of civil and human rights in dynamic indoor and outdoor spaces and is located at Permberton Place, adjacent to Centennial Olympic Park.
Mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed, noted that the centre, which is home to personal papers of Dr. Martin Luther King (Jr), would uphold Atlanta’s heritage and legacy of leadership.
Also, against the background of an underlying principle of equality regardless of skin colour for all Americans, the museum is magnified and placed behind the continuous wind for change and is placed on new limits in an exclusive, unrivaled setting.
With emphasis on the struggles of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s through the 60s to the 1970s, the energy, resilience and persistence of the Christian charismatic leader, Martin Luther King, is brought to fore in the three-story edifice.
President of Atlanta Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, William Pate, noted that with an established reputation as a city that promotes civil dialogue and global awareness, Atlanta has been allowed, “to be the incubator for the American civil rights movement.”
The centre is a museum dedicated to the achievements of both the civil rights movement in the United States and the broader worldwide human rights movement.
Founder of Trumpet Awards Foundation, Xernona Clayton, has dedicated her life to promoting racial understanding and highlighting the accomplishments and achievements of African Americans. She had also worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Junior and travelled extensively with King’s wife Coretta.
When asked why Atlanta was such a center for civil rights in the 1960s, she said, “we had some forward thinking people. The Southern Christian Leadership Service headed by Dr. King was organised in Atlanta and its members were ministers who were aware of the inequalities in our society.
“They were level-headed thinkers who looked at the problems to come up with solutions for African-Americans in our community. Students also played a big part. Students, primarily at the Atlanta University Center were energetic and wise thinkers and were eager to get involved.
“They realised that we had problems and could solve them. This active young student movement combined with the older ministers came together to solve problems,” she explained.
Clayton said that the future of Atlanta will be impacted by The center which is an addictive to education, a necessary institution as it will serve as a repository for information, a place where people can go to research, have questions answered and discuss issues.
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