Posted by: Elizabeth A. (Betty) Thomas | January 13, 2017

Center for Civil and Human Rights

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If you are traveling over the holidays and go to Atlanta, be sure to check out the Center for Civil and Human Rights.  Located in Downtown Atlanta at the Centennial Olympic Park between the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola, the museum is easy to find and well worth a visit.

The Center was first imagined by civil rights leaders Evelyn and Joseph Lowery, and Andrew Young. Opening in 2014, former Mayor Shirley Franklin brought together corporate and community support to create a museum that would connect the American Civil Rights Movement with global Human Rights Movements.

On the bottom floor are Martin Luther King, Jr.’s personal papers. The collection was acquired in 2007 for $32 million by a consortium of donors led by then-mayor Shirley Franklin, and is owned by Morehouse College. Low lighting and closely monitored temperature and humidity protect all these writings which include his handwritten notes, sermons, speeches, and manuscripts… a total of over 10,000 items in all.

The middle floors of the Center are devoted to the American Civil Rights Movement, created by playwright and director George C. Wolfe, who won Tony awards for directing “Angels in America” and “Bring in ‘da Noise/Bring in ‘da Funk.” Thus, it is not surprising that this section is more of an experiential exhibit. While there is plenty to read and digest, an impactful part of the museum for me was sitting at a segregated lunch counter during a simulated sit-in wearing headphones and listening to what might have been said to the civil rights protestors in Greensboro in 1960.  Growing up outside of Washington, D.C., the television newscasts of the 60s that are part of the display brought back lots of memories of events like the March on Washington.

The upper floor of the center has interactive displays of human rights situations around the world. The idea is to connect the civil rights movements of the 1960s to the human rights abuses that are still occurring around the world today.

The Center for Civil and Human Rights’ architect, Phil Freelon of Durham, North Carolina, merged with the Atlanta firm of Perkins and Will. Together they have recently completed the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. As impressive as the Center for Civil and Human Rights was to visit, I look forward to seeing their newest project.

For more information about the Center for Civil and Human Rights click here.

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~Betty Thomas~

Note: this blog post originally ran in the Charlotte School of Law Blog on December 22, 2016.

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