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Top Civil Rights Museums in America

Posted by Casey Kelley on

Learning Starts Here: Exploring Civil Rights from Past through Present

When you consider the purpose of a museum, you probably picture the perfect school field trip, or an indoor adventure for a rainy day. Though this may be most people’s first impression of the purpose of museums, we challenge you to think further. Museums collect stories, memories and artifacts to inform the public, but most importantly, these collections spark important conversations. This is exactly why we’ve compiled our picks for the best civil rights museums in America to explore.

National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Downtown Atlanta

civil rights museums

Our first pick, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights located in Downtown Atlanta is an engaging cultural attraction. This center forms an important connection between the American civil rights movement to the modern day global rights movement. This connection is made through the center’s collection of imagery and artifacts, combined with powerful storytelling.

What inspires us most about this pick is that the National Center for Civil and Human Rights makes the pursuit of equal human rights an achievable #SquadGoal for us all. The Center works to encourage and empower visitors so that they can gain a greater understanding about what we all can do to play a role in protecting human and civil rights across the globe.

National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel

civil rights museums

Our second pick on our list of must-see civil rights museums in America has a similar mission to our first: to teach visitors not only about historical milestones, but to connect these events to current day issues. The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel is a multi-sensory, multimedia experience, immersing visitors in its collection. The museum includes exhibits that explore important aspects of civil rights history, with “A Culture of Resistance: Slavery in America 1619-1861” and “Standing Up By Sitting Down: Student Sit-Ins 1960”.

The museum partners with organizations including the Blues Cultural Center and Diversify Memphis to further its goal to innovate, inform and inspire the public to apply their historical knowledge when addressing today’s human rights challenges.

Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site

civil rights museums

While we’ve touched on the importance of Martin Luther King Jr.’s landmark impacts on American history before, this site is monumental in its own right. This site includes King’s childhood home, which is also his birthplace as his parents refused to have King be born into a segregated hospital. Here, you can walk in the footsteps of this civil rights hero, while also having the opportunity to visit the Ebenezer Baptist Church where King would preach.

The site also includes the D.R.E.A.M gallery exhibits which work to showcase the relationship between MLK and Jimmy Carter and their efforts toward equal human rights. For children and adults alike, this site is one that shouldn’t be missed.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

civil rights museums

Established by Act of Congress in 2003, the National Museum of African American History and Culture boasts over 36,000 artifacts and nearly 100,000 members of the museum. This is the 19th and most recent museum of the Smithsonian Institution as of September 2016, and is entirely dedicated to the documentation of African American life, history and culture.

The museum is filled interactive exhibits that explores what it means to be black in America both historically and in modern day. Its varied exhibits cover movements including Hip-Hop, the Black Arts Movement, #BlackLivesMatter and more.

International Civil Rights Center and Museum

civil rights museums

The International Civil Rights Center and Museum (ICRCM) celebrates the nonviolent protests of the 1960 Greensboro sit-ins. These sit-ins began February 1, 1960 in North Carolina, when four A&T freshmen sat down at the “whites only” lunch counter. This act worked to spark the sit-in movement, an integral aspect of the civil rights movement as a whole.

The center functions as a memorial to this “Greensboro Four,” while also working to fortify the spirits of all those oppressed throughout the world that are working toward human freedom. The ICRCM’s mission is to ensure that the world never forgets the courage displayed by the Greensboro Four, as well as the thousands of college and community youth in American South that became a part of the sit-in movement. We love this pick not only for its incredible exhibits but also for its ability to show our children that they can #DoAnything.

civil rights museums

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