National Civil Rights Museum and the Lorraine Motel
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.
Backstory and Context
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.
To accommodate public demand for further educational opportunities, the museum underwent a $27.5 million renovation in 2013 and 2014, adding more than 40 new films, oral histories and interactive media to the site’s already robust galleries. It now contains replicas of the bus Rosa Parks rode on and the room Brown vs. Board of Education was argued. The museum also contains permanent exhibits relating to slavery, sit-ins, bus boycotts, and the black power movement as well as many more. The result is a one-of-a-kind experience that’s been featured on the History Channel and CNN, in USA Today and as the focus for the Academy Award-nominated documentary The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306. Additionally, the museum is among the top 5% of institutions to be accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and one of 17 accredited International Coalition of Museum sites worldwide and one of six coalition sites in North America.The museum is a must visit for anyone interested in the history of the Civil Rights Movement.