“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction….The chain reaction of evil–hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars–must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.”
Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength To Love, 1963.
Last week, we spent the afternoon at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis. The museum primarily covers the history of African American enslavement beginning in 1619 through the Memphis sanitation workers strike that brought King to Memphis in 1968 with additional presentation of civil rights struggles up to the present and documentation of assassin James Earl Ray’s exploits and prosecution.
It’s a ‘big picture’ presentation that serves well as both introduction and as a thread helping the knowledgeable connect events.
Housed in the old Lorraine Motel (sight of King’s assassination, somber and moving in its own right) the museum does an outstanding job of presenting and framing the often violent periods when African Americans fought to free themselves. The photographs and artifacts include letters and documents, a Montgomery bus, and a Woolworth lunch counter.
The failure or empathy is numbing and the tortured explanations posited by oppressors demand perpetual challenge. The extent to which some will go to keep their hearts and minds dark is something. The museum is both uplifting and sad. America has come so far, but we still have much to do.
“Success, recognition, and conformity are the bywords of the modern world where everyone seems to crave the anesthetizing security of being identified with the majority.” Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, 1963.
Are we each ready to stand, speak and leave the majority when we need to?
Teachers, take a look at some of the materials that museum offers as pdf files.