A Place of Remembrance

On a recent visit to Memphis, Tennessee, to cover a UConn women’s basketball game, I took time to visit the National Civil Rights Museum, the site of the former Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot to death on April 4, 1968.

The Lorraine is undergoing a renovation and access to the motel is temporarily closed. Instead, visitors are allowed to climb the exterior stairs to the second-floor balcony where King was shot. A large window affords a view into Room 306 where King was staying, set to look as it did that fateful day.  Balcony access will be barred again before the grand re-opening on the April 4 anniversary. Visitors will once again be able to tour the interior of the motel and view King’s room from inside.

A square cut into the concrete on the balcony just outside Room 306 marks the spot where King was shot.  It was an eerie feeling to stand where the great civil rights leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate last stood.  I was standing on hallowed ground

The non-profit museum, which opened in 1991, chronicles important events in the civil rights movement leading into the 1960s. The Legacy exhibits, which are open during the renovation, are located across the street from the Lorraine, in a building that once was the rooming house where James Earl Ray, King’s alleged killer, rented a room while King was staying at the Lorraine to attend a rally in support of striking sanitation workers. Ray’s room, enclosed in plexiglass, is part of the exhibit and is set as it looked in 1968.  The Legacy exhibit also includes the police and court documents chronicling the case against Ray.

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I offer a glimpse of this solemn place of remembrance.

MEMPHIS, TN 01/03/14 The setting sun illuminates the number 306 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, the room Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was staying in when he was assassinated on the balcony on April 4, 1968. The site is now part of the National Civil Rights Museum. CLOE POISSON|cpoisson@courant.com

MEMPHIS, TN 01/03/14 The setting sun illuminates the number 306 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, the room Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was staying in when he was assassinated on the balcony on April 4, 1968. The site is now part of the National Civil Rights Museum. CLOE POISSON|cpoisson@courant.com

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