Walking in Memphis

I live in the city where Martin Luther King was born, and I’ve always wanted to visit the place where he died. I got to do that a few weeks ago with my daughter and sister by my side.

It was an ambitious trip: I picked my daughter up from school an hour early and whisked her off with us through Alabama and Mississippi on U.S. Route 78 (where food at rest stops is almost nonexistent).

Me, at a foodless rest stop

The plan was to spend less than 24 hours in Memphis, turn around and drive back to Birmingham on Saturday evening to rest, and then go back to Atlanta in the morning (my sister’s flight was at 1 pm).

National Civil Rights Museum

Our first stop was at the National Civil Rights Museum which consists of the Lorraine motel and the building that used to house the motel where MLK’s killer fired the shot from.

The view from James Earl Ray’s bathroom

The tour started with a 30-minute documentary in which one of the pastors with MLK at the time of his assassination recounted the events that led up to it (including the final one, the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike). It was so emotional to walk around the exhibits and artifacts that show cased real newspaper clippings, memos, photos, and the like that promoted segregation in the South just a decade before I was born. One exhibit was a spin-the-wheel type that displayed more than 50 reasons why a Black person would not be allowed to register to vote. (They were all discouraging things like getting beaten, being given the runaround, and being told they answered a [trivial] question incorrectly.) That’s one of the reasons why it makes me sick when people of African American descent say they don’t vote in elections because it doesn’t matter, or their vote doesn’t count. How many of their ancestors would have loved to have that privilege? Continue reading “Walking in Memphis”

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