Civil Rights Museum gets Gates Foundation grant

Associated Press Modified: September 13, 2012 at 4:32 pm •  Published: September 13, 2012

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The National Civil Rights Museum is using a $549,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a social media strategy in efforts to spark a national discussion on equality in education.

The grant, announced Thursday at the museum in Memphis, also will be used to improve the museum's website and add tidbits of information to some historical exhibits that illustrate how education influenced the civil rights movement, museum director Beverly Robertson said.

The museum is located at the site of the old Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. It chronicles the history of the civil rights movement and features the room where King stayed while he was in Memphis supporting a sanitation workers strike. It attracts 200,000 people each year.

Recently, the museum has been the site of rallies and vigils in support of slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin and Chavis Carter, who was found fatally shot while handcuffed and seated in the back of a police car in Jonesboro, Ark. The museum is also in the midst of a $40 million fundraising campaign.

The goal of the improvements to website design and content — and integration of social media tools such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter — is to educate the public and encourage ongoing conversations about past and current civil rights issues, Robertson said.

"This grant is going to be used to allow us to become a leading civil and human rights resource in the Unites States to promote a national dialogue on issues of equity in education," Robertson said. "We're really in a battle for the futures of all of our children."

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