After my usual Sunday morning activity, I decided to visit Center for Civil and Human Rights where I spent almost half a day of my time. From Doraville Station, I got off at Peachtree Center Station. And the station reminded me one of the longest escalator that I ever experienced. From Peachtree Center Station, I walked my usual path going to Pemberton Place since its not my first time to go there at that time. I walked straight towards the museum that I planned to visit that day.
Entrance/Exit Peachtree St NE
The name of the museum itself signifies that it’s not a typical or usual museum because it tackles a serious matter that affects everyone. Even though it exhibits a deliberate thing and most likely not so popular like World of Coca-Cola and Georgia Aquarium when it comes to visitor or tourist, one thing that made me decided to visit the museum was to find out what happened and Atlanta was able to build museum for a very important aspect of human beings to have. I was curious on the reasons behind to build such a beautiful and modern building to express information about civil and human rights. Before I entered to such a lovely building center in Pemberton Place, I appreciated the concept of modern architecture of the museum which for me means one thing, Atlanta or let say Georgia gives so much high regards about people’s innate rights to live.
The moment I entered the building’s lobby, I immediately sense that the building’s modern architecture cannot only be seen from the outside but even inside of the museum. Its simple design is truly visible and portrays cleanliness of the center since the building just built a year ago before I visited the center. The lobby has glass wall from floor to ceiling to its front side while the rest of the walls was painted with white, it has stairs on the left side and beside it the information desk can be found. One thing that is noticeable in the lobby is the huge mural displays on the wall that depicts some of the civil and human rights theme showing a big hand at the center.
The museum has a lot of exhibits that showcases about civil and human rights, but on this post I will at least emphasize the exhibits related to the theme of American Civil Rights Movement since its the exhibit that I have almost photos captured if not all. Then, the rest of the photos from other part of the exhibit will just be displayed with few details.
Rolls Down Like Water : The American Civil Rights Movement
“Rolls Down Like Water: The American Civil Rights Movement” is an interactive gallery that opens with examples of segregation in the United States as embodied in Jim Crow laws and signs designating facilities as “whites only”. Designed by George C. Wolfe, the Tony Award-winning playwright, the gallery is broken up into multiple sections, each marked by a significant event in the civil rights movement, like Brown vs. Board of Education. A number of the exhibits are interactive, including a recreation of a lunch counter sit-in complete with headphones that simulate the taunts and threats leveled at activists.
Source : Wikipedia
Introduction 1950s/Urban South
This gallery explores life in the 1950s in the Urban South through displays featuring Jim Crow laws and the people in power who vocally and violently enforced segregation. This gallery also includes a map of Atlanta’s Auburn Avenue, which became a symbol of African American empowerment around the country of its thriving community and vibrant institutions.
Source : Civil Center and Human Rights website
From the lobby of the museum, I started my journey to find out what the museum is all about. At the beginning of my exploration, first thing to noticed are both side walls has old photos that shows the life in few decades passed. Facing toward the exhibits from the lobby, at my right side, shows the “Colored” and at my left side shows the “White”. At first, I did not understand what it meant until I finished checking and reading the notes displayed in each exhibits in that part of the museum.
I moved on to other exhibits and I discovered that because of color differences or racial differences, there were segregation happened in USA and my mind was blown away of surprise because all the exhibits showcasing that the colored (which commonly the black colored) and whites has to be separate in almost everything if not all. This segregation is actually called “Jim Crow” Law. This law is a state and local laws that mandated a separate but equal existence for non-whites, defining where they could live and work and go to school, how they could eat and drink, use public transportation – and vote. If this law was broke by African-American or negro, he/she has to faced arrest and most of the time received violent punishment.
The famous advocates of Segregation
One thing to learn in the museum was about the rise of the African-American even they lived in a limited spaces while the Jim Crow Law was implemented. They never stopped to strive for education and business institutions within the confines of segregation. But it was not easy as history tells us there were lots of sacrifices happened within the period of segregation was happening.
In the museum I discovered that City of Atlanta was able to developed a community composed of institutions for educations, businesses and cultural hubs that helped and supported African-American just after Civil War. The inspiring on this aspect was the time of its development was happening in the height of poverty and discrimination. Therefore, Atlanta is nationally recognized as symbol of African-American self-empowerment. Because of this information, I do understand why this museum is in the city, because the city itself has big role to achieved such a historical moment for the African-American rights.
The exhibit also displays information that mentioning the place called to be “The Richest Negro Street in the World” in 1956 by Fortune Magazine which is Auburn Avenue (Sweet Auburn) where the hub for African-American commerce and social life with black-owned businesses, entertainment venues and churches in Atlanta are located.
Here are the following institutions for African-American within the vicinity of Sweet Auburn, all the summary excerpt information describes each establishments are came from the museum which I captured through my photos.
- Ebenezer Baptist Church (6077)
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. maternal grandfather Reverend A.D Williams, pastored the church followed by his father Martin Luther King Sr. who helped lead campaigns against unfair merchants and was involved with a lawsuit to equalize the salaries of black and white teachers. Then, King Jr co-pastored the church with his father.
- Wheat Street Baptist Church (6080 Right)
Led by Reverend William Holmes Borders. He was instrumental in the hiring of Atlanta’s first African-American police officers, led the campaign to desegregate the city’s buses in 1957 and established the nations’s first federally subsidized, church operated housing project in 1960s.
- Prince Hall Masonic Temple (6080 Left, 6083 Right)
John Wesley Dobbs, the longtime leader of Prince Hall Masonic Temple and John Calhoun Jr. of the NAACP led numerous events to register voters across Georgia after the a court ruling that Georgia white primary was unconstitutional which resulted to more than 100,000 African-American Georgians registering to vote in 1946. This also resulted to desegregation of Atlanta police officer in 1948 and influenced mayoral elections for decades.
It was also home to Atlanta’s WERD Radio (the nation’s first black-owned radio station purchased by Jess B Playton, a professor in Atlanta. The radio broadcasted music, sermons and news programming.
- Big Bethel Ame Church (6083 Left)
The church led by Reverend Harold I. Bearden. His sermons about racism and civil rights were broadcast over Atlanta’s WERD Radio.
It is a central meeting space for the community and a driver of social action.
It is also known for its annual performance of the morality play Heaven Bound.
- The Royal Peacock (6085, 6087 Left) / Paschal’s Restaurant
The Royal Peacock was the key Atlanta stop on the “chitlin circuit” of prominent African-American performance venues. The partygoers of Auburn Avenue would often dine at Paschal’s restuarant, enjoying such Southern specialties as golder fried chicken, collard greens and corn bread. Owned by two African-American brothers, James and Robert Paschal.
It was a hangout for intellectuals and students from the nearby Atlanta Univesity Center, and a key meeting place for civil rights gatherings. As Coretta Scott King said, “Paschal is as important as historical site for the American civil rights movement as Boston’s Faneuil Hall is to the American Revolution.
- Butler Street YMCA (6087 Right)
It became a training ground for young leaders as well as residential lodge for many newcomers to Atlanta.
It served as the home location for the city’s first African-American police officers in 1948 due to lack of desegregated police facilities
- Atlanta Life Insurance Company (6089 Right) / Citizens Trust Bank
Atlanta Life Insurance Company founder Alonzo Herndon viewed his investment in Atlanta Life as an opportunity to provide a valuable service to policyholders who had been cheated or discriminated against because of their race. It stepped up its support for the increasing efforts of African-Americans by posting bail for jailed students, and provided meeting space and printing and communications facilities to civil rights groups.
Citizens Trust Bank, founded in 1921, invested in the development of housing subdivisions throughout the west side of Atlanta, helping create neighborhoods that were among the most affluent residential areas for African-Americans in the country. It became one of the most important sources of capital for African-American homeowners, business owners and civic organizations in Altanta.
- Atlanta Daily World (6089 Left)
It was the earliest and most widely circulated black newspapers. Founded in 1928, the paper became an important source of news regarding the African-American community-and an alternative political voice to mainstream newspapers regarding public issues.
It cover topics often ignored by other mainstream Atlanta publications, including lynching, police brutality, voter discrimination, and notable achievements of the African-American community.
- Spelman College / Morehouse College
In Atlanta, the world’s largest consortium of African-American private institutions of higher education can be found which called as Atlanta University Center (AUC). This includes Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Clark College, Morris Brown College, and Spelman College.
W.E.B DuBois from Atlanta University was a powerful writer and model of a socially engaged scholar. Morehouse President Benjamin Mays mentored students, spoke out against racism and provided leadership in civil rights organizations. Faculty members like Samuel Williams, Carl Holman, Howard Zinn and Staughton Lynn offered crucial guidance and support during American’s civil rights movement.
Brown V. Board of Education
After learning about the “Sweet Auburn” and its importance to African-American community, I got a chance to learn about Brown V. Board of Education. And the information that I learned was something profound.
The Brown V. Board of Education decision was the first national victory in the legal struggle for racial equality. And this resulted to the demise of legally segregated schools in 1954. Historically, before Brown case won, its been decades that NAACP Legal Defense Fund laying the ground work by filing lots of lawsuits that challenge the segregation in higher education.
The Brown case itself challenge the very core of the “separate but equal” principle established by the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision. But Thurgood Marshall, the NAACP Legal Fund’s director argued that the separation itself was inherently unequal with supporting arguments that resulted for a unanimous vote 9-0. Though the implementation of the decision took years to take effect but its a fight won to end of segregated education.
Aside from the information of Brown case, the exhibit also showcases historical facts displaying the theme of “Paving The Way Firsts and court cases Leading to Brown vs. Board of Education” where it listed all the first things where the Negro achieved their rights, acceptance and recognition in the society.
Showcasing the achievements of African-American in the society
In this part of the exhibits, I realized that changing the way people used to live is challenging because there are people who will oppose on the new customs specially if these people enjoyed and benefited more in that way of living. Like in slavery system, the people who hate to remove this system are the people whom receives much favor of it. This is where the color or racial discrimination in America exist because it was the after effect of abolishing slavery. Being elite in the society gave so much favors to the system as they are more advantageous on it while for the slaves its more detriment on them. One side of the people will go against the removal of the system and will do all their might because they are afraid to loose a lot of things they used to have and they used to experience, they don’t even want to think or dream that their life will change because of some movement or revolution. Even in the present time, equality in all things is something a wishful thinking in human race.
The next exhibits that I read on reveals how African-American tried to challenge the Jim Crow Law by going in to the places where establishments and public transportation has a clear sign of segregation.
Below are some of the stories that portrays challenging the segregation law to different institutions.
There were two women tried to sit in white only seats on segregated bus. Though different results happened to Rosa Parks and Claudette Colvin, what it emphasize was they tried to end the unjust traditions wherein the white seats at the front and the colored seats at the back and cannot be sit in by colored riders as long as there are whites whose going to sit in. This kind of segregation made me think that during the heights of Jim Crow law, I never really thought that kind of system had been worked for decades. I felt how cruel the people at the time.
The first black child to attend William Frantz Elementary School. Her story really made an impression to me whom white people were so strong to oppose the law even at the time that the desegregation in education has been decided. At her young age, as she used to in what kind of treatment they usually received, the story shown how brave she was. The white community, as they tried their might to oppose when Ruby was accepted in the school, both white students and parents boycotted the school.
- The Integration of Central High (Little Rock Arkansas)
The story of the students that tried to integrate to Little Rock Central High School was the story that moves me in some ways. As the Governor Orval Faubus ordered to close the school’s entrance, even he agreed with President Dwight D. Eisenhower to allow colored student to enroll, but broke his word. At that moment, there was riot happened and the President sent the 101st Airborne Division (famous for its role in World War II D-Day Landings) to protect the nine students and enable them to attend the school. President Eisenhower inspired me of what he told that time that “We are nation, in which laws, not men are supreme”. The school close to prevent the integration but after a year it opened as integrated school.
Understanding this part of history in USA made me realized, how truly brave the African-American students to surpass such kind of agony just to go to school and to end the segregation that’s been happening for decades.
Because the voice of the African-American is slowly gaining its momentum, as the opposing side of white community, there was a suspicion that the Temple Bombing was because the Rabbi of the temple at that time supports the racial justice. When I read this, I thought that at the time, the opposing side of white community does not only hurt people physically just to show their angry of what is going on with desegregation, but they even can really kill people if necessary.
- Sit-Ins (Woolworth’s Lunch Counter)
The story of Sit-Ins, is something similar that African-American started to break or end the segregation in a specific establishments. These involves four freshmen at North Carolina A & T University in Greensboro North Carolina, sat down at the “whites-only” lunch counter and ordered coffee. But the staff refused to served them and asked them to leave. The inspiring moment that I saw here was the perseverance of these students to be accepted and to exercise their rights to be treated as equal with the white. They repeated the sit-ins as the numbers followed their acts grew tremendously and other students in other cities followed their civil rights movements.
People who contributed or influence so that African-American can be heard and appreciated even at the times where community is still confused and still opposing to end the traditions are the following:
He was a longtime president of the Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Company, wielded enourmous power during his time. What I admired with him is he used his position and power to support racial moderation in the city. He was the one supported the dinner for Martin Luther King for his Nobel Peace Prize if not supported by local businessment, he threatened to move the Coca-Cola headquarters out of Atlanta.
William B. Hartsfield
He served as Atlanta’s Mayor from 1937 to 1962. And he developed the city at his time. As a politician, he was once segregationist but he adjusted as the block political power is arising at his time. He tried a very creative and save propaganda that benefited himself for making Atlanta as “the city too busy to hate”. He presided comparatively peaceful school integration compared to other Southern communities.
Ivan Allen Jr.
He served as Atlanta’s Mayor during 1962-1970. On his first day as mayor, he removed all “white” and “colored” signs in City Hall and helped desegregate the building’s cafeteria. From being pragmatic opposition to segregation, it became his personal conviction.
He was a journalist that became a voice for racial moderation in the South. He was once unwilling to criticize the segregation but but the US Supreme Court school desegregation decision, he told white Southerners to obey the law of the land and accept the civil rights changes.
The people who had influence or advocates to hear or appreciate African-American
Women’s Political Council (WPC)
Women has contributed a lot for the civil rights movement for African-American, if there were women bravely challenge the bus segregation even they faced to be arrested, punished and jailed, there are group of women who also helped to fight for their rights. One of them was the President of WPC named Jo Ann Robinson which helped to reform the segregation that no longer require that black surrender their seats to whites.
Another thing that inspired me while reading the texts or excerpts that accompanies the photos or displays in the museum was the portraits showing how well dressed the protester were. They want to fight for their rights not because of their appearance but to show their dignity within. The idea was to show the world that the African-American were the opposite of what the whites described them.
The protester in their modest look
A reconstruction of the Greyhound Bus that Freedom Riders rode in Anniston, Alabama in 1961 engages visitors with oral histories from the Riders, as well as a short film inside of the bus.
The exhibits displayed in this part of the museum opened my eyes what kind of persecutions that African-American or people who fights for their rights experienced during those time. It was a heart-breaking that while I was reading the stories of firebombed and mobbed buses that resulted of many people died and badly beaten. I was still contemplating what was kind of life before for these people to suffer. I was wondering why there were people denies the rights of others while they enjoys it for them. It was indeed truly the world was unfair and cruel.
For the campaign of Freedom Riders, there were lots of people sacrificed their life. But it was a worth fighting for. Most of the people joined this wave, accepted that they may loose their life but still they went through with it. These people risked their life to fight for the change and to fight for whats right for them.
The Freedom Riders (whom most of them died or suffered) fighting for their rights
After learning about the training involved in non-violent protest, guest are invited to participate in a lunch counter sit-in simulation and place themselves in the shoes of non-violent protestors in 1960.
This part of museum gave me a chance to experience through simulation how I would be able to feel if I was one of the non-violent protester in a lunch counter. All the painful words, I heard it in simulation and the crucial while listening was the beating part that I thought that I could feel that I was the one that people was beaten to death. My heart was pounding for each thrust that the listener received from people surrounded him. I felt I was a small person that everyone were persecuting me because of who I was, because of my race. I felt I was not a human being during the simulation. It was a deafening experience to realize how cruel to live at that time.
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
One of the most iconic and joyful moments of the Civil Rights movement, the March on Washington uses multi-media to highlights the organization, organizers, speeches and songs of the day.
This part of the museum depicts what triggered the March to Washington and how the event was planned including its overall activities that I can say inspired humanity for what they bravely did.
People who had major contributions towards the March event
A. Philip Randolph
The Big Six
(Roy Wilkins, James Farmer, John Lewis, Whitney Young and Martin Luther King)
He was know to be defender of segregation but he was credited on many things happened for civil rights after he assumed presidency when John F Kenny was assassinated. History acknowledge the key roles that Johnson played to progress the civil rights cause.
All about the March event
The Three Hymns
This gallery focuses on some of the shocking acts of violence that followed the March on Washington: The murder of four girls in the bombing of the 16th Street Baptish Church in Birmingham Alabama, the murder of Civil Rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner and the murders of Jimmie Lee Jackson and Viola Liuzzo, with Jackson’s death serving as the catalyst to the march from Selma to Montgomery.
Four Little Girls
The violence did not end in buses. There were series of bombs happened after the March event in Washington which resulted the death of four little girls named Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair. One thing that surprised me was the guilty bombers were just convicted in 1977 and the rest were only in 2001 and 2002.
The death of the activist did not end in the bombing events, there were people also murdered by Ku Klux Khan (group for white supremacy). At first, the three people named as James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were missing and then were murdered. The event triggered wherein the Civil Rights Act of 1964 has been signed by President Johnson.
More life has been sacrificed. Two persons died again. Jimmie Lee Jackson died few days later due to police brutality. While Viola Liuzzo murderd by KKK members. These events triggered to passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and voting rights legislation.
Edmund Pettus Bridge
Because of what happened to Jimmie Lee Jackson, the March from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama happened. The protesters lead by Hosea Williams and John Lewis experienced beating and trampling from state police and troopers when they were blocked when trying to cross Edmund Pettus Bridge. Even the event condemned by media, the violence did not end, the second march happened which lead by Reverend James Reeb was beaten and died of his injuries. The third march became successful when Alabama courts finally ruled that the police had to protect and not to attack the protesters.
There is a part of the museum where I was emotionally affected as I read stuff I just felt that my tears were falling into my face. I just felt how cruel the life for the living that they have to suffer because of something that individual has no control to have such as your color or race as human was born. And then I read the passing of the leader of the movement – Martin Luther King Jr.
Spark of Conviction: The Global Human Rights Movement
“Spark of Conviction: The Global Human Rights Movement”, unlike the other exhibits, is non-linear in design. The exhibit includes a rogues gallery of dictators, like Adolf Hitler and Augusto Pinochet, and counters them with images of modern-day activists who work to improve conditions of women and LGBT individuals around the world. One activity, called “Who Like Me”, allows visitors to define themselves using a particular trait—such as their religion or gender—and shows them an individual who is persecuted in their homeland for that same trait.
Source : Wikipedia
Here are some of the photos captured in the museum.
Mass Murder on An Epic Scale (These Perpetrators of Heinous Crimes Escaped Justice)
Mapping Political Freedom and Economic Freedom
Here, I found where my country Philippines belong in terms of Political Freedom and its equality index between rich and poor, even where it is in poverty line.
Here are the human and civil rights that are emphasize in this part of the museum
And these thoughts or ideas are inspiring
Here are the people whom does not recognized human and civil rights
Here are the people considered as Current Dictators
With the Mass Murderer
And here are the people who are champion in fighting human and civil rights
Here are some of the prisoners of conscience
Voice to the Voiceless: The Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection
“Voice to the Voiceless: The Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection” contains personal effects that belonged to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.The collection was obtained in 2006 when Dr. King’s estate decided to sell a number of his letters and papers at auction. Before the auction took place, however, Mayor Franklin launched a bid to purchase them for $32 million, with Morehouse College owning the collection and the Center having the rights to display it. The exhibit tells Dr. King’s story from his youth through to his assassination and its aftermath and includes such papers as drafts of “Letter from Birmingham Jail” and “Drum Major Instinct”, a sermon King delivered not long before his death.
Source : Wikipedia
This was the last part of the museum that I visited. I don’t have much photos capture since it was not allowed to take photos here. The only thing I captured was the name of the room outside which was below.
In this part of the museum, all the personal letters made by King can be seen here. But I spent few minutes here since the museum was about to close for the day.
1. Plan to visit Center for Civil and Human Rights ? – Please check latest information here
2. Entrance Fee – Please check here for latest updates
Note: If you plan to visit other tourist spots in Altanta, I suggest to get Atlanta City Pass to get discounted prices.
3. Public Transportation Ticket – Use MARTA Breese Card, here’s the official website, here’s alternative site for the card
4. Directions to Center for Civil and Human Rights using train :
If you will ride within Red Line or Gold Line regardless which station you will come from, just remember to get-off at Peachtree Center Station.
If you will ride in any of Blue or Green Line, you are required to transfer at Five Points Station and take Red or Gold Line and get off at Peachtree Center Station.
At Peachtree Street, turn Right until you reach Baker Street NW and turn left towards Pemberton Place.