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“Absolutely Essential”

National Civil Rights Museum - Lorraine Motel
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African American Heritage Self-Guided Tour With Transportation
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African American History Tour of Memphis - Overview Tour
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Memphis Heritage Attraction Pass
Ranked #1 of 161 things to do in Memphis
Certificate of Excellence
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Owner description: At the place of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'S death in 1968 in Memphis, TN, the National Civil Rights Museum is a renowned educational and cultural institution. The Museum chronicles the American Civil Rights Movement with compelling presentations of iconic exhibits, oral histories of lesser-known civil rights foot soldiers, and visceral, in-the-moment experiences. Visitors will learn through emotionally charged, multi-user, multi-touch interactives, and a visually engaging, contemporary exhibit design that guides you through five centuries of history. Bring the whole family.
Reviewed June 27, 2013

You cannot be an American, or understand America, without understanding the Civil Rights movement. It really is that simple. It is both America's greatest badge of shame and our finest hour, a time when the forces of bigotry and hatred were thwarted by courage and political will. It is an inspirational story, and one that needs to be told again and again and again so that it is never forgotten.

And I can't think of a better way to tell this story then by visiting the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. It is essential.

The exhibits begin with a fascinating history of racism, where they look at all aspects of racism throughout American history, from its use in advertising (Cream of Wheat guy, Aunt Jemima pancakes) to cartoons (some of the Looney Tunes cartoons are quite stunning). From there, the museum takes you through the history of the Civil Rights movement, starting well back in time with Frederick Douglass and others before moving forward to the 60s and 70s (which features the bulk of the exhibits).

The museum does a wonderful job of looking at the social, political, and economic aspects of the movement, and breaks down all the key players and groups involved. In particular, it does a superb job in explaining all the different views and opinions of the major players. When we say the phrase "Civil Rights movement" is suggests that everyone involved was more or less in lockstep, and this museum shows that this is clearly not the case; Medgar Evers had different views than Malcolm X, who differed from Martin Luther King, Jr., who differed from the Black Panthers, etc.

The exhibits themselves are incredible, and features video footage, artifacts, and audio clips. I was particularly spellbound by the audio recording of John F. Kennedy talking to the governor of Mississippi about allowing a black student onto campus. It's a great study into federalism that is well worth your time.

The most chilling part of the exhibit is across the street at the boarding house where James Earl Ray fired the fatal shot. The exhibits detail the motives behind the assassination and spend a great deal of time on the manhunt, which is riveting. To the museum's credit, it also addresses the issues of conspiracies, and brings up some interesting points of contention (although at the end of the day, you really can't avoid the fact it was Ray who did it). You can see the actual room where he prepared to snipe the civil rights leader, and it's hard not to get choked up when you notice the wreath laid at the door of Dr. King's room at the motel.

Memphis is a town of good food and good times, so take advantage of that. But it is required, REQUIRED, that you also allocate several hours to this museum. It's one of the best I've ever been to.

Thank Graham L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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5,216 - 5,220 of 6,586 reviews

Reviewed June 27, 2013

Museum is not open on Tuesdays so plan your trip accordingly so you don't miss this fantastic museum! Just returned to Canada after a 3 day visit to Memphis. The people in Memphis are very friendly and super polite!! The Civil Rights Museum is extremely well done and very informative. I found the fact that you get to stand on the actual balcony that Martin Luther Jr stood on and died on to be extremely moving and awe inspiring. To be in a place with that much greatness surrounding it was mind boggling. I reviewed it before we took our trip and it was rated as the #1 attraction in Memphis. I cannot disagree with that in any way! Do not miss this museum. Part of it is under renovation but what is still open is well worth the trip by itself. There is a ton of information available to you and if you are like me you will still be digesting it long after you leave the museum. It is not only a hugely important part of American history, it is important and affects us all in some way or another no matter where we live!
We of course visited Graceland and it was also very interesting and awesome to see but if you only had time for one stop on your trip, I would say make it this museum!

Thank ShelleyP842
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 26, 2013

I coach a high school debate team and the kids and I were in Alabama for the National tournament. After their all too early exit from the tournament, we decided to spend a day road tripping around, seeing fun things. We eventually made it up to Memphis and Graceland, but while in town, there's no way we could miss the Lorraine Motel.

The other posters are correct and there is definitely construction afoot. Scaffolding up, on and on. We got there late in the day, so we didn't buy any tickets--- but even without a ticket, you can walk right up to the Lorraine Motel and see that fateful balcony. With a ticket, you can go ON the actual balcony. If I ever find myself in Memphis again, I'll be touring that entire museum, but for now, I am so moved by the little I did see.

The plaque outside of the site of the assassination has perhaps the single most poignant Bible quote this atheist has ever seen--- so perfectly used that it actually brought tears to my eyes.

"They said one to another
Behold, here cometh the dreamer. . .
Let us slay him. . .
And we shall see what will become of his dream.
Genesis 37: 19-20"

1  Thank ThisPlceHsEverything
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 26, 2013

The Civil Rights Museum is very well done and very informative. The break down the tragedy and the story and deliver it in a very informative and easy to digest manner.

Thank Stephen M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed June 25, 2013

Able to see the wreath below room 306 where Martin Luther King Jnr was assassinated by James Earl Ray 4th April 1968. The Mountaintop speech is able to be viewed & general area walked around & history is well explained.
An essential visit when in Memphis.

1  Thank Clio H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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