The National Civil Rights Museum is located adjacent to the former Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. The Lorraine Motel manager, Walter Lane Bailey, ensured that King's room be left as it was that fateful day and visitors to the museum can view the room as they move through the museum. The museum was established in 1991 and features interactive exhibits, historic collections, as well as dynamic speakers for a rotating schedule of special events that are open to the public. The museum's main galleries trace the history of the Civil Rights Movement from the 17th century to the present. Visitors begin within the original Lorraine Motel and continue through the exhibits within the Young & Morrow and Boarding House buildings across Mulberry Street.
The original hotel was
constructed in 1920 and later additions were added throughout the years. The hotel was known as the Windsor Hotel and then renamed the Marquette prior to World War II. Walter
Baily bought the hotel in 1945, named it after his wife Lorraine, and during
the segregation movement his mainly catered to African American clientele.
During the 1960s some of the more famous occupants, other than King, included
Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, and Otis Redding. After King’s assassination on
April 4, 1968 rooms 306 and 307 were closed off from the public immediately and
used preserved by Bailey. Later on, the motel rooms would be converted to
single room efficiency apartments. By 1982 the motel was in foreclosure and was
bought by the Martin Luther King Memorial Foundation and in 1988 it ceased
being a motel.
This museum was made possible by preservationists and historians who came together a few years after the Lorraine Hotel was closed and faced demolition. After years of effort, the National Civil Rights Museum opened in 1991 thanks to the local Save the Lorraine Organization and support from national figures and philanthropists.