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Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta

The Center for Civil and Human Rights opened in June 2014. It is located in downtown Atlanta, Georgia and is in close proximity to Georgia Aquarium, The World of Coco-Cola and the CNN Studio Tour.

The Center for Civil and Human Rights opened in June 2014. It is located in downtown Atlanta, Georgia and is in close proximity to Georgia Aquarium, The World of Coca-Cola and the CNN Studio Tour.

The American Civil Rights Movement | Sharon Henry

On 4 April 1968, 48 years ago today, civil rights leader, Dr Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated. Our visit to the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia, was an eye opener for us about this tragic event and a dark period in American history.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and we captured something that was illegal a few decades ago; two school kids, black and white, boy and girl, stood side by side in a public building. Together they’re reading the ‘Jim Crow’ segregation laws that once regulated the South of the USA. Laws that sparked the civil rights movement, a period in history that has benefitted these kids in the future. For me this picture embodies the outcome of that struggle.

A picture is worth a thousand words. This girl and boy on a school trip would not even have been permitted to attend the same school during the Jim Crow era. Exhibit inside the Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia.

A picture is worth a thousand words. This girl and boy on a school trip would not even have been permitted to attend the same school during the Jim Crow era.
Exhibit inside the Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia.

Fighting Jim Crow

Jim Crow was not an actual person but a set of laws introduced in 1877 that stipulated the segregation of black and white people. For instance, “The schools for white children and the schools for negro children shall be conducted separately.” Up until the mid 1960s the boy and girl we photographed would not have been permitted even to attend the same school.

The 'Whites' segregation board at the entrance to the American Civil Rights Movement exhibition, a board labelled 'Coloreds' is on the opposite wall. The only difference in the photo collages are skin colour. Inside the Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia.

The ‘Whites’ segregation board at the entrance to the American Civil Rights Movement exhibition, a board labelled ‘Coloreds’ is on the opposite wall. The only difference in the photo collages are skin colour.
Inside the Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia.

The 'Coloreds' segregation board at the entrance to the American Civil Rights Movement exhibition, a board labelled 'Whites' is on the opposite wall. The only difference in the photo collages are skin colour. Inside the Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia.

The ‘Coloreds’ segregation board at the entrance to the American Civil Rights Movement exhibition, a board labelled ‘Whites’ is on the opposite wall. The only difference in the photo collages are skin colour.
Inside the Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia.

The floor to ceiling glass-fronted lobby of the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia

The floor to ceiling glass-fronted lobby of the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Georgia

We were inside the Center for Civil and Human Rights when we took that picture, a museum in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia, a state once governed by Jim Crow laws. This museum is especially educational for us as non-Americans, as we learned about the country’s fight for racial equality.

It tells how a century after the emancipation of slaves, black people of the South remained second-class citizens, shackled by Jim Crow laws and deep-rooted cultural traditions.

The exhibits inside the Center for Civil and Human Rights are informative and very moving, and are not designed to be rushed, you need to take your time to explore and absorb.

The exhibits inside the Center for Civil and Human Rights are informative and very moving, and are not designed to be rushed, you need to take your time to explore and absorb.

The 'Rolls Down Like Water' gallery inside the Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta. An exhibition to read, see, hear and feel history.

The ‘Rolls Down Like Water’ gallery inside the Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta. An exhibition to read, see, hear and feel history.

A quote by civil rights leader, Dr Martin Luther King perfectly surmises the motive for the uprising. “You know, my friends, there comes a time when people get tired of being trampled by the iron feet of oppression.”

Woolworths Diner Lunch Counter Sit-In

The exhibits are plain, honest and hard hitting, they include interactive videos and audio files. The museum does not shy away from illustrating the atrocities black people suffered during the Jim Crow era; the stories put a lump in my throat.

In 1963, following an order to desegregate schools of Birmingham, Alabama, a Baptist church was bombed. Four little girls was killed. Despite the fact that the FBI had information on the bombers, no one was convicted until 1977, with the last two bombers convicted in 2001 and 2002 Exhibit inside the Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia.

In 1963, following an order to desegregate schools of Birmingham, Alabama, a Baptist church was bombed. Four little girls was killed. Despite the fact that the FBI had information on the bombers, no one was convicted until 1977, with the last two bombers convicted in 2001 and 2002
Exhibit inside the Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia.

'The Problem We All Live With' painting of Ruby Hall by Norman Rockwell published in 'Look' magazine 1964. On November 14, 1960 federal marshals escorted 6 year old Ruby to her first day of kindergarten. She was the only black child to attend the school, and after entering the building she and her mother went to the principal’s office while the white parents came in and took their children out. Thereafter she was the only student in her class. This picture is one of the exhibits inside the Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia.

‘The Problem We All Live With’ painting of Ruby Hall by Norman Rockwell published in ‘Look’ magazine 1964.
On November 14, 1960 federal marshals escorted 6 year old Ruby to her first day of kindergarten. She was the only black child to attend the school, and after entering the building she and her mother went to the principal’s office while the white parents came in and took their children out. Thereafter she was the only student in her class.
This picture is one of the exhibits inside the Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia.

'Segregationists' exhibit inside The Center for Civil and Human Rights building in Atlanta, Georgia.

‘Segregationists’ exhibit inside The Center for Civil and Human Rights building in Atlanta, Georgia.

'Segregationists' exhibit inside The Center for Civil and Human Rights building in Atlanta, Georgia.

‘Segregationists’ exhibit inside The Center for Civil and Human Rights building in Atlanta, Georgia.

'Segregationists' exhibit inside The Center for Civil and Human Rights building in Atlanta, Georgia.

‘Segregationists’ exhibit inside The Center for Civil and Human Rights building in Atlanta, Georgia.

The most powerful exhibit that literally left us shaking was the simulation of a lunch counter sit-in, a replica of a segregated Woolworths diner where non-violent protests took place in the early 60s.

You are to sit to the counter, wear a headset, place your hands flat on the table and close your eyes. Through the headset you hear people enter the diner, they start shouting threats, mock you, become aggressive, nasty. Dishes are smashed, voices come so close the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. They bang the counter which you feel through your hands and your chair actually shudders from a simulated kick. It’s hard not to flinch and leave your seat even though it’s not real. The test is to see how long you can last.

The simulation of a lunch counter sit-in. Put on the headset, place your hands on the table and see how long you can sit out a silent protest as taunts are shouted at you from all angles. One of the interactive exhibits inside the Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia.

The simulation of a lunch counter sit-in. Put on the headset, place your hands on the table and see how long you can sit out a silent protest as taunts are shouted at you from all angles.
One of the interactive exhibits inside the Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia.

How long can you last? Darrin experiencing the lunch counter sit-in simulation of the actual Greensboro sit-ins. These were a series of non-violent protests in North Carolina, in 1960, which led to the Woolworth department store chain removing its policy of racial segregation in the Southern United States. This is one of the interactive exhibits inside the Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia.

How long can you last? Darrin experiencing the lunch counter sit-in simulation of the actual Greensboro sit-ins. These were a series of non-violent protests in North Carolina, in 1960, which led to the Woolworth department store chain removing its policy of racial segregation in the Southern United States.
This is one of the interactive exhibits inside the Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia.

It’s extremely effective at conveying the intimidating sense of the physical and mental experiences those courageous protestors endured, standing up against racial discrimination.

Fed up with these conditions a growing number of activists drew the segregation issue to media attention attracting not only domestic but international awareness via bus boycotts, lunch counter sit-ins and the March on Washington where Dr King delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech. These actions helped to end segregation and in 1965 the Jim Crow laws were revoked.

Crowds surrounding the Lincoln Memorial on 28 August 1963, attending the March On Washington For Jobs and Freedom. It is considered the largest human rights event in American history.

Crowds surrounding the Lincoln Memorial on 28 August 1963, attending the March On Washington For Jobs and Freedom. It is considered the largest human rights event in American history.

Tickets to this Recognition dinner organised by the Citizens of Atlanta in honour of Dr Martin Luther King Jr in 1964 were not being bought. That is until the president of Coca-Cola threatened to withdraw his business from the city, then dinner tickets were immediately sold out.

Tickets to this Recognition dinner organised by the Citizens of Atlanta in honour of Dr Martin Luther King Jr in 1964 were not being bought. That is until the president of Coca-Cola threatened to withdraw his business from the city, then dinner tickets were immediately sold out.

A tribute with the faces and stories of people who lost their lives during the civil rights movement. Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia.

A tribute with the faces and stories of people who lost their lives during the civil rights movement.
Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia.

The Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, also draws attention to modern day freedom fighters and the continued global fight for human rights.

The Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, also draws attention to modern day freedom fighters and the continued global fight for human rights.

The centre in Atlanta also focuses on 4 April 1968, the day the world stopped when Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated. Again the museum doesn’t hold back on gory details, which gave me more lumps in my throat.

Assassination of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr – 4 April, 1968

Dr King was campaigning for economic equality in Memphis where he gave his last speech, “I’ve been to the mountaintop.” He was shot outside his motel room. Video clips relive the moments his death was announced and the public outcry that followed.

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr stands with fellow civil rights leaders (from left) Hosea Williams, Jesse Jackson and Ralph Abernathy on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 3 1968, one day before King's assassination. (photograph displayed in Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia)

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr stands with fellow civil rights leaders (from left) Hosea Williams, Jesse Jackson and Ralph Abernathy on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 3 1968, one day before King’s assassination.
(photograph displayed in Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia)

Memphis police officers and civil rights leaders Ralph Abernathy (second from left), Andrew Young (third from left), and Jesse Jackson (fourth from left) stand over the body of Dr Martin Luther King Jr after he was shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. (photograph displayed in Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia)

Memphis police officers and civil rights leaders Ralph Abernathy (second from left), Andrew Young (third from left), and Jesse Jackson (fourth from left) stand over the body of Dr Martin Luther King Jr after he was shot at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968.
(photograph displayed in Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia)

Dr Martin Luther King Jr's blood being cleaned off the Lorraine Motel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee, after he was shot and killed on April 4, 1968. (photograph displayed in Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia)

Dr Martin Luther King Jr’s blood being cleaned off the Lorraine Motel balcony in Memphis, Tennessee, after he was shot and killed on April 4, 1968.
(photograph displayed in Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia)

Graphic pictures of his fallen body and his spilled blood being cleaned off the balcony speak more than a thousand words. Some of which came from his wife, Coretta Scott King: “If you give up your life to a cause in which you believe, and if it is right and just, and if your life comes to an end as a result of this, then your life could not have been spent in a more redemptive way. I think that is what my husband has done.”

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

The legacy of Dr King, the lunch counter sit-ins and the bus boycotts is evident right there, where a black boy and a white girl can visit a museum together on a school trip and be oblivious to any other way. A picture is worth a thousand words…

The March on Washington for Jobs And Freedom, 28 August 1963 was designed to pressure the federal government to enact civil rights legislation, protect civil rights and improve working conditions for African Americans. Thousands attended from all backgrounds. This picture is part of the exhibits inside the Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia.

The March on Washington for Jobs And Freedom, 28 August 1963 was designed to pressure the federal government to enact civil rights legislation, protect civil rights and improve working conditions for African Americans. Thousands attended from all backgrounds.
This picture is part of the exhibits inside the Center for Civil and Human Rights, Atlanta, Georgia.

To give perspective on how bad the Jim Crow laws were, I’ve listed few.

“It shall be unlawful for a negro and white person to play together any game of pool or billiards.

“Train cars or divisions provided for white or colored passengers shall be marked in plain letters in a conspicuous place, ‘For White’ or ‘For Colored.’

“The legislature shall never pass any law to legalise any marriage between any white person and a negro or a descendent of a negro.

“No business should serve food to white and coloured people in the same room, unless they are separated by a solid partition and a separate entrance is provided for each compartment.”

The Center for Civil and Human Rights building in Atlanta, Georgia, was created by design architect Philip Freelon. Freelon is best known for leading the design team of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

The Center for Civil and Human Rights building in Atlanta, Georgia, was created by design architect Philip Freelon. Freelon is best known for leading the design team of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

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