By Michael Gutterman, Mitzvah Corps Civil Rights Journey 2017 Participant
As part of our Civil Rights Journey through the South, we went to the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. This was the motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was staying when he was assassinated. The day before the shooting, he had made the famous “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech.
The Civil Rights Museum is organized chronologically, from slavery until the shooting of Martin Luther King Jr., which helped make the museum interactive. Although the museum focused on African American history, many white supremacy groups like the Klu Klux Klan attacked other groups, like Jews. For me, the thing that was most surprising involved the bombing of Congregation Beth Israel in Jackson, Mississippi. As a Jewish person, this meant a lot to me.
I also found the museum’s connection between the Cold War and Civil Rights movement very interesting. This connection is something that I already knew, but seeing the direct timeline laid out in newspapers was informative. The Soviet Union was able to portray the U.S. as racist and tried to set up a satellite in African countries, forcing the U.S. to change some of their policies.
The museum did a good job connecting the broad aspects of history to the Civil Rights movement and after visiting it, I want to continue to learn about the importance of the Civil Rights movement and its impact on world history. I hope these experiences will allow me to even teach others about the importance of the Civil Rights movement.