Civil Rights and other musings
A trip to Atlanta, GA.
I recently had the opportunity to attend the Access Services Conference in Atlanta, and I appreciate the Dartmouth College Library for granting me the privilege of attending and meeting others from all over the country and world. Atlanta has been on my bucket list for years, and though I spent most of my time at the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center, I was able to sightsee a bit before and after the conference.
Highest on my list of places to visit with only a few hours to spare was the Center for Civil Human Rights. This amazing museum is part of a complex built on the site of Olympic park. In addition to this museum, there is a Coca Cola Museum and an Aquarium that I hope to visit the next time I'm in town.
I have been to many museums but this one is definitely my top five favorite. I was raised believing that all people should be treated equally, no matter their gender, religion or color of their skin. With all that is happening each and every day around the world, I needed a place that helped reaffirm my beliefs. This museum is a testament to what was achieved during the Civil Rights Movement, and how much work we still have ahead of us.
This year is the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Civil Rights. Until I visited this museum, I was completely unaware of Dr. King's assistance in drafting this vital document, nor the friendship that developed between him and Eleanor Roosevelt, our UN Ambassador and former First Lady.
One of the most interesting sections of the museum was on the first floor, a collection of Dr. King's writings, a rotating collection that was purchased through funds raised by Senator John Lewis and other key members of the Civil Rights movement. There were the notes from his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail, and a flyer advertising him as one of the key speakers in an anti-apartheid rally for South Africans. And yes, it included several letters from Eleanor Roosevelt.
All of the docents were helpful and knowledgable. Moving upstairs, I was forewarned that things would become more visceral, and they did. If you are a certain age, you remember the "White's Only" signs in the South, and the water cannons let loose on peaceful protestors. And then there was the lunch counter. As a way to illustrate the bravery of these ordinary citizens just trying to make a point, there is a lunch counter set up in the museum. You are asked to place your hands on the counter and put headphones on. As a patron, you are then subjected to just 3 minutes of what many folks had to deal with for hours. People screaming in their face, threatening them and telling them their families, homes, or lives would be taken from them. I survived the 3 minutes, but not without tears streaming down my face as I caught a glimpse of what many in this world still experience every day through the acts of others.
In addition to highlighting the Civil Rights Movement, there were exhibits for the LGBTQA community, and an exhibit around activist movements around the world in acknowledgement of the Universal Declaration of Civil Rights.
Friday evening, before flying home the next day, I went to the Ponce City Market, on the recommendation of a librarian from Atlanta. This former Sears Distribution Center was a terrific place to see some of the stores and food that Atlanta had to offer. And of course, there was a bookstore.