Many years ago, we visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, Israel. We subsequently visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. Last year we visited the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Today we visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee.
Human antipathy and cruelty to “others” is universal and endless.
This museum is built in, and alongside, the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered 50 years ago on April 4. He joined a long list of Americans murdered because they fought for civil rights, or were simply African American. His death was sadly not the last.
Slavery in the Americas was massive and pervasive. By 1860 55% of the people in Mississippi and South Carolina were slaves. Louisiana, Florida and Georgia were all mid-40s. Overall, 13% – about 1 in 8 – people in the US were slaves.
The battle for freedom and equal rights began before the African slaves ever reached our shores, continued on the plantations, through the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights movement of the mid-20th century, and to today.
The Uber driver taking us back to the hotel asked if we enjoyed the museum; “enjoy” doesn’t really describe it. But we were very glad to have gone.
After resting up for a bit, I went out for a walk. It was 95 degrees, sunny and humid today, so I wasn’t expecting to get far. But here’s what I found.
There’s a Gibson guitar factory here which gives tours, but I had no reservation and couldn’t get in. But the showroom was a colorful cornucopia of guitars.
There is a city beyond Beale Street’s three blocks. For instance, Main Street is a long pedestrian mall served by electric streetcars. There are, however, almost no pedestrians to be seen. Is it the heat? There are restaurants and discos, shops and offices. But I saw extremely few actual people.
The Mississippi River is only a few blocks away. Other than a tourist riverboat, and a barge train heading up-river, there was no one there either.
After dinner at a nice restaurant on Main Street, we walked back to Beale Street to get another music fix.
What we found was the Bike Night on Beale. Hundreds of bikes and bikers completely fill Beale Street’s three blocks every Wednesday during the summer. There was a competition of glitz, and a competition of volume between the bikers and the bluesmen.