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National Center for Civil and Human Rights

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Center for Civil and Human Rights
National Center for Civil and Human Rights 01.jpg
Established23 June 2014 (2014-06-23)
LocationAtlanta, Georgia, USA
CollectionsPapers and writings from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
PresidentDerreck Kayongo (CEO)
CuratorGeorge C. Wolfe, Jill Savitt
Public transit accessDome/GWCC (W1) or
Civic Center (N2) (MARTA);
Centennial Olympic Park (Atlanta Streetcar)
Nearest parkingAdjacent garages for Georgia Aquarium and World of Coca-Cola (pay)

The Center for Civil and Human Rights is a museum dedicated to the achievements of both the civil rights movement in the United States and the broader worldwide human rights movement. Located in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, the museum opened to the public on June 23, 2014.

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  • National Center for Civil & Human Rights - Construction - Downtown Atlanta - 5/31/13


Welcome to the Center for Civil and Human Rights. My name is Nicole Moore, and I'm the Manager of Education here. At the Center for Civil and Human Rights, it's our mission to empower you to take the protection of every human's rights personally, and so we do that by telling the stories of the American Civil Rights Movement and tying it with the global Human Rights Movement. At the center we have three unique gallery experiences. And on our very first floor you have Voice to the Voiceless, the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. collection. In this space, it rotates every three or four months and what you'll be able to experience are the actual papers and documents of Dr. King. So you're going to see his books, letters, telegraphs, outlines of his speeches, and this is one of the few places in the world that you're going to actually see his original papers. Coming up to our second floor, which is actually our main floor, you're going to see Rolls Down Like Water, the American Civil Rights Movement. And this gallery brings you through in 1954 so you start to see a segregated Atlanta. And you're going to go all the way until April of 1968, with the assassination of Dr. King in Memphis, Tennessee. When students walk into the space, what you're going to notice immediately is that you're going to see the segregationists and you're going to hear their voices. But we not only focus on the segregation, we also look at how African-American communities thrived in this environment. And so you're going to see the institutions in Atlanta that made it Atlanta great. You're going to take a look at Sweet Auburn and you're going to see the Royal Peacock. You're going to see colleges like Morehouse and Spelman, so you're going to see how these communities were able to stay successful when basically the odds are stacked against them. And then coming into our second portion, which is A Movement Catches Fire. And what you're going to see then is you're going to meet individuals, like Ruby Bridges, the six-year-old who integrated her school in Lousiana. You're going to see Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. One of the most emotional yet important pieces I think of the Center is our sitting counter. Visitors are invited to sit at the lunch counter and go through a simulation of what it would have been like to actually sit and hear the torments and the taunts and understand that non-violence was not passive-aggressive. So you get to experience just a small portion of what they would have experienced. And you get to ask yourself, "Could I have done it?" But the one thing that really brings people together is when they come into the space that we're in right now, which is The March on Washington. And in August 1963, over 250,000 people—black, white, Latino, Asian— they all descended upon Washington, DC to fight for jobs and freedoms. And it was the largest peaceful protest held in our country at that time. Many of you guys know the March on Washington for Dr. King's "I Have a Dream" speech, but here you're going to learn about A. Philip Randolph and Dorothy Height and Bayard Rustin, the organizers of the events. They had a list of demands that they presented, and they had various speakers, so that everybody could understand that we can have a peaceful protest and all we want is jobs and freedom and equality in that. In Spark of Conviction: The Global Human Rights Movement, you're going to take the experiences that you learned during the American Civil Rights Movement and you're going to understand that these issues aren't just in the United States. You're going to see protests from all over the world. So when you walk into the space, you'll see these mirrors and they'll ask "Who like you?" And you'll have different adjectives that you can choose from to say who like you is threatened around the world. And what happens is once you choose an adjective, there's a person that comes and talks to you in this mirror. And based on the adjective that you chose, that's going to be your experience if you were to go to their country. And so we use that to bring the connection to you so that you understand that these issues are very real, and it's up to us to make sure that we can change how these rights are viewed. You'll also be introduced to some defenders of human rights like Nelson Mandela, Dr. King again, and Gandhi. You're also gonna see some of the offenders of human rights, like Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, and Uganda's Idi Amin. And in this space we want you to understand that these groups of people either helped or harmed large groups of people. And when you understand that, and then see in the middle of the space modern-day human rights defenders, you'll see that human rights and activism doesn't look a certain way. And so it doesn't matter if you don't have the very best in clothing or you're not all clean-cut, are you willing to make a change? And are you willing to take a stand? And that's what really matters. But no matter what you take away from the Center for Civil and Human Rights, we hope that you're inspired to act and that you take the protection of every human's rights personally.



The Center was initially conceived by Evelyn Lowery, the wife of Joseph Lowery, and Juanita Abernathy, the widow of Ralph David Abernathy, along with former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young and longtime House Representative John Lewis, all of whom were part of the movement to grant civil rights to African-Americans during the 1960s.[1] The Lowerys met with then-Mayor Shirley Franklin in 2001, who was warm to the concept of a museum honoring Atlanta's civil rights history but, due to more pressing issues with the city's finances, was unable to offer much more than that at the time.[2] The group met again in 2005, at which point Franklin signed onto the project, and the Center for Civil and Human Rights was established in 2007, along with its initial fundraising efforts.[1] Five architectural firms presented their proposals in 2009,[1] with the Center ultimately selecting a design by architect Philip Freelon[3] for a 90,000-square-foot (8,400 m2)[4] museum that would break ground in 2010 and open in 2012.[5] The 2.5-acre (1.0 ha) site for the museum, at Pemberton Place, was donated by The Coca-Cola Company and placed the museum adjacent to three popular tourist attractions, the Georgia Aquarium, the World of Coca-Cola and Centennial Olympic Park.[6]

However, due to the Great Recession, fundraising was slower than expected.[4] Support from Delta Air Lines and local philanthropists including Atlanta Falcons owner and The Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank, each of whom contributed US$1 million, improved the fundraising efforts, but in October 2010 the Center's chief executive officer, Doug Shipman, announced that the museum would be delayed a year, with groundbreaking now scheduled for 2011 and opening in 2013.[5] In March 2011, the Center announced that it had scaled back the plans for the museum, reducing its size to 63,000 square feet (5,900 m2) to decrease unused space; the proposed exhibition space was left unchanged at 30,000 square feet (2,800 m2).[4]

In December 2011, the Center announced another change in the plans for the museum, electing to build the facility in three phases, with the first 35,000-square-foot (3,300 m2) phase breaking ground in June 2012 and opening Memorial Day 2014.[7] The change was partly motivated by the threat of losing $28.5 million from a tax allocation district fund if construction was not started by June 2012.[7] Groundbreaking finally took place on June 27, 2012 in a ceremony attended by numerous dignitaries, including current Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and former mayors Franklin and Young.[8]


Main hall of the building.
Main hall of the building.

The Center hosts a number of exhibitions, both permanent and temporary, that not only tell the history of the civil rights movement in the United States, but how that period is related to more contemporary human rights struggles around the world. During the development phase of the museum, it was determined that the average museum visitor would be more familiar with events in Sudan or the Middle East than they would events in Selma, Alabama and that civil rights history alone would not be enough to sustain the facility.[2] The museum currently contains three permanent exhibitions, which the average visitor can experience in about 75 minutes.[9]

"Voice to the Voiceless: The Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection" contains personal effects that belonged to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.[9] The collection was obtained in 2006 when Dr. King's estate decided to sell a number of his letters and papers at auction.[2] Before the auction took place, however, Mayor Franklin launched a bid to purchase them for $32 million, with Morehouse College owning the collection and the Center having the rights to display it.[2] The exhibit tells Dr. King's story from his youth through to his assassination and its aftermath and includes such papers as drafts of "Letter from Birmingham Jail" and "Drum Major Instinct", a sermon King delivered not long before his death.[9]

"Rolls Down Like Water: The American Civil Rights Movement" is an interactive gallery that opens with examples of segregation in the United States as embodied in Jim Crow laws and signs designating facilities as "whites only".[9] Designed by George C. Wolfe, the Tony Award-winning playwright, the gallery is broken up into multiple sections, each marked by a significant event in the civil rights movement, like Brown vs. Board of Education.[9] A number of the exhibits are interactive, including a recreation of a lunch counter sit-in complete with headphones that simulate the taunts and threats leveled at activists.[9]

"Spark of Conviction: The Global Human Rights Movement", unlike the other exhibits, is non-linear in design.[9] The exhibit includes a rogues gallery of dictators, like Adolf Hitler and Augusto Pinochet, and counters them with images of modern-day activists who work to improve conditions of women and LGBT individuals around the world.[9] One activity, called "Who Like Me", allows visitors to define themselves using a particular trait—such as their religion or gender—and shows them an individual who is persecuted in their homeland for that same trait.[9]

Building design

The Center was developed by a prestigious group of award-winning designers. Its unique structure, designed with the goal of creating a physical representation of The Center's vision and a world-class destination for Atlanta, was created by design architect Philip Freelon in partnership with HOK. Freelon is best known for leading the design team of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. His work has been published in national professional journals and he was named Designer of the Year in 2008 by Contract magazine.

HOK is the largest U.S.-based architecture-engineering firm and the country's third largest interior design firm. HOK has received several awards and recognitions, including being named the number one architecture and engineering firm by Engineering News-Record and Architectural Record and receiving the Atlanta Business Chronicle's Best in Real Estate Award—Best in Design for their collaborative work with the Freelon Group on The Center.


In early 2014, the New York Times named the Center for Civil and Human Rights as one of the biggest reasons to visit Atlanta in 2014, along with the soon-to-open Atlanta Streetcar and other new attractions.[10] In a more thorough review of the Center in June 2014, Edward Rothstein of the Times called the facility "imposing".[11] Rothstein praised the design of the civil rights exhibit as "finely executed" and "the main source of the center's appeal".[11] However, Rothstein took issue with the composition of the human rights exhibit, calling some of the components of the exhibit "arbitrary" and ultimately "leaving us with more questions than understanding".[11]


  1. ^ a b c Charles McNair (Spring 2009). "The Dream Center". Emory Magazine. Emory Creative Group. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d Bo Emerson (20 June 2014). "How new rights museum carries Atlanta's story forward". Cox Newspapers. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  3. ^ Jamie Gumbrecht (23 June 2014). "The rise of the civil rights museum". Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
  4. ^ a b c Leon Stafford (7 March 2011). "Civil rights center to break ground in October, open in 2013". Cox Newspapers. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
  5. ^ a b Kelly Yamanouchi (22 October 2010). "Center for Civil and Human Rights pushed back a year". Cox Newspapers. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
  6. ^ Erin Moriarty (14 May 2007). "Turning a dream into reality". Atlanta Business Chronicle. American City Business Journals. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
  7. ^ a b Leon Stafford (12 June 2012). "Civil Rights Center moves forward after long delay". Cox Newspapers. Retrieved 10 July 2014.
  8. ^ "Center For Civil & Human Rights Groundbreaking Held". 2 July 2012. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i Bo Emerson (20 June 2014). "What to expect at new civil rights museum in Atlanta". Cox Newspapers. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  10. ^ Elaine Glusac (10 January 2014). "52 Places to go in 2014". The New York Times Company. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  11. ^ a b c Edward Rothstein (22 June 2014). "The Harmony of Liberty". The New York Times Company. Retrieved 23 July 2014.

Further reading

External links

This page was last edited on 23 November 2018, at 21:05
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