A complex of museums and historical buildings in Memphis , Tennessee, the Museum of National Civil Rights is displayed in a collection which traces the history of the Civil Rights movement in the USA from the 17th century until now. The museum was built on the site of the murder in 1968 of Martin Luther, King of the St. Joseph ‘s Hospital and was located in the old lorraine Motel. As part of the museum complex were acquired two other buildings and their adjacent building that were also connected to the murder of the king.
The museum opened again after refurbishment in 2014 which added to the number of interactive and multimedia exhibits, including several short films. The Civil Rights Museum Foundation of Memphis is the property and the director of this museum. The Lorraine Motel is owned by the National Museum of Tennessee and the Foundation has been rented for a long time to be part of the museum complex. The museum was honored in 2016 by becoming a member of the Smithsonian Institution.
The location was later known as the Marquette Hotel and opened as the 16-room-Windsor Lorraine Hotel around 1925. It was bought in 1945 by Walter Bailey, and was renamed “Sweet Lorraine” for his wife Loree. Bailey ran the motel during the segregation period as a luxury hotel for a Black customer. He also added a second floor to the building with a swimming pool and an access to more rooms in the south. From Lorraine Hotel he changed his name to Motel Lorraine. In the sixties, the performers included Ray Charles, Lionel Hampton, Aretha Franklin, Ethel Waters, Otis Redding, Staple Singers, and Wilson Pickett. Musicians will be present at Stax Records.
At approximately 6:01 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot. The day after his famous speech “I’ve Been on the Mountaintop” he gave on 4 April 1968. Bailey withdrew from use Room 306 (where the King died), and room 307 in the aftermath of the king ‘s assassination, which kept them memorial to the leader of the activist. Following a stroke, Bailey’s friend, Loree, was killed 5 days later, hours after the assassination. By converting the other motel rooms to single rooms, Bailey reduced the service for low-income use.
The house, with all but Lorraine Motel, is located on 450 Mulberry Street and is owned by the Lorraine Civil Rights Foundation. It is owned and run by the State of Tennessee in Nashville under a 20-year lease from the Foundation.
The main museum is in what is now called the South Main Arts District, on the edge of downtown Memphis. The Mississippi River is only six blocks east. The Museum, the Lorraine Motel and the related structures form the entire property of 4,14 acres (16,800 m2). The museum also owns the house Young and Morrow on Main Street 422.
This was where James Earl Ray admitted to shooting King at first (and then denied it later). The complex includes Canipe’s Amusement Store at 418 Main Street , near the room where the Ray fingerprint murder weapon was discovered. The brushy lot between the rooming house and the motel is included on these grounds.
A number of vehicles of historical significance or otherwise important for the period of time can be found in the museum. A display vehicle will feature an international Harvester garbage lorry in the 1968 Sanitation Stroke in Memphis on Munich, a 1968 Cadillac, a Dodge parked outside the motel, a re-burned Greyhound bus shell used by Freedom Riders, and a Bus representative for Montgomery Bus boycott. A new car will also feature an international harvester garbage lorry on display.
The following amazing museums are located in beautiful Memphis, Tennessee, along with these other must-see museums you shouldn’t miss:
- Beale Street
- Stax Museum of American Soul Music
- Memphis Zoo
- Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum
- Mud Island
- Shelby Farms Park
These amazing museums are located just down the street from our location at South Third Street across from The Southgate Shopping Center. Stop by for a visit anytime!