As we traveled through the Deep South on our way to my husband’s family reunion in Atlanta, we used some of our stops as learning opportunities about the Civil Rights Movement for our tween-age daughters.
This year, happens to be the 50th Anniversary of the “Freedom Summer,” also known as the Mississippi Summer Project. It was a campaign launched in June 1964 to attempt to register as many African American voters as possible in Mississippi, which had historically excluded most Blacks from voting. We watched the recent episode of “American Experience” on PBS about the “Freedom Summer” at home last week.
The program showed that the project set up dozens of Freedom Schools, Freedom Houses and community centers in small towns through Mississippi. Through the documentary, the girls also learned more about the Freedom Riders who were so instrumental during the Civil Rights struggle. While at the Birmingham Institute for Civil Rights, my eldest, was quick to point out that we would be visiting many cities along the same travel route of the Freedom Riders.
We also visited the incredible Smith Robertson Museum & Cultural Center in Jackson, Miss. and met with the museum director. This is a must-see for anyone visiting the Magnolia State. Not only is it the largest museum in Mississippi that hosts a vast collection of African American artifacts, it also has one of the most extensive exhibits about Medgar Evers, an African American civil rights activist from Jackson involved in efforts to overturn segregation.
The Smith Robertson Museum & Cultural Center was particularly special for us because there was a fabulous photography exhibit on display about the children and teens that played an important role in the movement in Jackson.
Another incredible Civil Rights museum is the newly built Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. This engaging cultural attraction just opened this summer and connects the American Civil Rights Movement to today’s Global Human Rights Movement. The center serves as the ideal place to reflect on the past, transform the present and inspire the future. The 43,000 square-foot facility is located on Pemberton Place adjacent to the World of Coca-Cola and the Georgia Aquarium.
Next stop was Memphis where we visited the National Civil Rights Museum at the Loraine Hotel, which is the site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. Here visitors can not only tour the hotel now transformed into a living learning center but also gain a deeper understand about the significance and timeline of what occurred leading up to and following that tragic day and how it influenced the Civil Rights struggle.
When it comes to Civil Rights, it’s important not only to learn about historical milestones but also to interpret them in a way that can be applied to today’s challenges. That’s what these wonderful museum treasures do for all visitors. Through multi-sensory and multi-media innovations, historical artifacts, structures, events, speakers and online resources they help bring this important part of history back to life in a way that kids and adults can really understand and relate to in an informative and dramatic fashion.
My daughters were blown away to consistently see exhibits at all of the museums showing kids about their same age being brave active participants and doing their part to help bring about change. It also spurred rich, deep conversations between me, my husband and our daughters once we got back in the minivan and headed off to our next stop.
The visits to Jackson, Birmingham, Atlanta and Memphis really helped bring history to life by actually seeing powerfully significant exhibits and retracing the same steps as those who fought for civil and human rights for all people.
Carla Meadows is a Oklahoma City native, wife and mother of two tweens and a loveable Golden Retriever who blogs about building intentional family moments through the wonders of travel at home and across the U.S. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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