The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

New Atlanta civil rights museum also explores rights struggles for women, LGBT, immigrants

  • Print

ATLANTA - 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 labour.

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 theatre 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 labourers 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.

___

If You Go...

NATIONAL CENTER FOR CIVIL AND HUMAN RIGHTS: 100 Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd., Atlanta; www.civilandhumanrights.org, 678-999-8990. Open daily beginning June 23, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Adults, $15; students and seniors, $13; children 3-12, $10.

___

Associated Press video journalist Johnny Clark contributed to this report.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Lauren Bacall 'loved' working in Canada

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A one day old piglet glances up from his morning feeding at Cedar Lane Farm near Altona.    Standup photo Ruth Bonneville Winnipeg Free Press
  • JOE.BRYKSA@FREEPRESS.MB.CA Local-(  Standup photo)-    A butterfly looks for nector on a lily Tuesday afternoon in Wolseley-JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS- June 22, 2010

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you agree with the mandatory helmet law for cyclists under 18?

View Results

Ads by Google