A Visitors View of the Center for Civil & Human Rights




Barbara Becker in her Huffington Post column hits the mark. With the grand opening of the Center this week the doors are open to what she describes as “skimmers, swimmers and divers”.

“My children were among the “skimmers.” Buzzing on sugar from the all-you-can-drink tasting room at the World of Coca-Cola next door, they stood gazing up at a life-size “villain” Idi Amin, the late brutal despot of Uganda, and “defender” Dr. Denis Mukwege of the Congo, a leading voice on ending violence against women in times of armed conflict.

For 10 minutes they watched and re-watched footage of Walter Cronkite announcing the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on national television, as well as Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy urging an assembled crowd in Indianapolis just learning of Dr. King’s assassination to resist violence and seek unity and justice.

The “swimmers” in our group followed the Center’s ebb and flow — making their way from the ground floor where a rotating selection of Dr. King’s private papers are displayed, to the galleries and exhibitions telling the story of the U.S. civil rights movement on the second floor, to the top level with its openly-designed 6,000 square feet focused on global human rights.

“Divers” were intent on drawing deeper connections between the legacy of the 20th century American civil rights movement and contemporary efforts to ensure universal human rights for all. One panel contains scenes from a civil rights-era graphic comic booklet of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life, aimed at introducing non-violent resistance to a low-literacy audience. In recent years, the publication has been translated into Arabic and Farsi and distributed by activists throughout the Middle East.”
For Atlanta this Center tells some of the stories about the Civil Rights Movement repeated in political speeches, church sermons and school history programs. But never before have most Atlantans had such a convenient opportunity to view, reflect and discuss the Movement in the context of contemporary human rights struggles. From the quiet display or the Morehouse College Papers Collection including a photographic display of King’s library collection, his notes on a copy of the Letter from the Birmingham Jail to the stories of the Global Human Rights Movement.

Dozens of folks put their shoulders to the wheel, made substantial charitable donations and dedicated their time to the civic goal of designing and building the Center. Hundreds have visited the Center in just the first days and no doubt that will continue. There are lots of impressions from visitors including the story of one international traveller who, after reading about the Center used his layover at the airport to visit or Georgia State Senator Jason Carter who brought his young children one day or the local news anchor who returned after work hours to spend more time viewing the exhibits or the human rights activist who traveled from Los Angles to spend the day touring the Center. Atlanta has claimed its history and with the opening of the Center in downtown Atlanta offers visitors and residents a major glimpse inside.



  1. shirley says:

    Among the hundreds of posts and news articles there is another that captures the spirit of the Center.
    Check out The Bitter Southerner at http://bittersoutherner.com/national-center-for-civil-and-human-rights

  2. Burroughston Broch says:

    A June 18, 2014 article in the Wall Street Journal quoted the Center’s chief executive as saying it would need 350,000 visitors a year to be self-sustaining. Charlotte’s NASCAR Hall of Fame was touted to draw 800,000 visitors a year, yet only draws 150,000 per year and costs Charlotte taxpayers over $1 million per year to keep open. What are the Center’s plans if attendance does not reach 350,000 per year, and who would subsidize it’s operations?

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