Have you been to the Center for Civil and Human Rights yet? I spent an entire afternoon there back in February, and loved every moment.
Though this post is months after the fact, I always intended to publish it, and now is a good time to do it, because the one-year anniversary of this amazing facility just passed a few days ago.
So this post is a happy birthday to the Center, as well as an enthusiastic recommendation that you check it out. The Center is a space of information, inspiration, reflection, and hope.
As soon as you walk in, you are bowled over by this powerful piece. To me, its message is that we have the power within our hands to put a stop to the various forms of oppression that have infected our world.
It recognizes that while you are just one person, you are indeed one awake person who matters and has a voice. You have no idea how far the ripple effect that you start may reach. Such reminders are always good, especially in light of so many horrors in the news these days.
In fact, on this very day, June 27, 2015, I am inspired beyond measure by the actions of Bree Newsome in Colombia, South Carolina, who climbed up a 30 ft flagpole this morning and took down the confederate flag:
The flag has a conflicted history, with some Americans flying it with pride, while others reel in disgust by the hateful and violent past it symbolizes.
So yes, this artwork and this Center come to life when we bring them to life.
The 43,000 square foot facility tells the story of immensely weighty topics with grace and creativity.
The first floor of the Center is devoted to the Civil Right’s Movement, which took place in several states in the American South in the 1950s and 60s, while the Center’s upstairs envelops you in the worldwide Human Right’s Movement spanning topics such as human trafficking, dictatorships, disability, corruption, and other human right’s violations. According to the center’s website:
The purpose of the center is to create a safe space for visitors to explore the fundamental rights of all human beings, so that they leave inspired and empowered to join the ongoing dialogue about human rights in their communities.
As you walk through the exhibits, each of your senses is ignited. The curators and designers utilized myriad audiovisual media, interactive displays, photography, and textual and environmental graphics to fold visitors inside the story.
For example, to enter the Civil Rights’ exhibit, you had to walk through a hallway papered floor to ceiling with these images:
On your left:
And on your right:
The interesting thing about this is that the photos show nearly identical experience of Americans in the 1950s and 1960s, enjoying their families, practicing their faith, exercising. Yet for some reason, these humans were not equal, and in the not too distant past, they were legally separated.
I cannot attempt to explain the Civil Right’s movement here in this post, but I invite you to learn more about that momentous time in American history by exploring these links here, here, and here. This excerpt from History.com gives you an overview:
Nearly 100 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, African Americans in Southern states still inhabited a starkly unequal world of disenfranchisement, segregation, and various forms of oppression, including race-inspired violence. “Jim Crow” laws at the local and state levels barred them from classrooms and bathrooms, from theaters and train cars, from juries and legislatures.
In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the “separate but equal” doctrine that formed the basis for state-sanctioned discrimination, drawing national and international attention to African Americans’ plight. In the turbulent decade and a half that followed, civil rights activists used nonviolent protest and civil disobedience to bring about change, and the federal government made legislative headway with initiatives such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Many leaders from within the African American community and beyond rose to prominence during the Civil Rights era, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Andrew Goodman and others. They risked—and sometimes lost—their lives in the name of freedom and equality.
At the Center, you will learn about the movement’s leaders, the timeline of significant events, the opposition these brave people faced, the callous propoganda of an era that didn’t want to change, the greats strides that were made, and the significant work left to do.
Here are a few photos from my experience.
The exhibit had no qualms about taking you there. Below is a depiction of the rubble and charred remains of the bombed 16th Street Baptist Church, where four little girls were among the dead.
And this scene in particular was not for the faint-hearted:
In the scene above, you were invited to sit down on a stool that resembled the counter at a diner in 1950s American South. You put the headphones over your ears and place your hands on the hand image.
A recording began to play that gave you an example of the harassment and threats that the Civil Rights’ protesters encountered during the sit-ins that were integral to overturning the laws that made it illegal for black people to eat at certain restaurants and other indignities, just because of their skin color.
Press PLAY ► below to experience what I experienced, and imagine how long you would’ve sat there if this were real.[codepeople-html5-media-player id=1]
Every thump you heard was a simulation of my chair being hit by the thugs, and because of the 4D experience, my chair actually rattled. Can you imagine if this was really happening to you, and someone was really threatening to stab you with a fork?? Just for sitting there? Yet you’re the uncivilized one.
These people threatening to put a fork in someone’s neck for sitting at a counter. I AM MORE IMPRESSED THAN EVER by my ancestors who stood their ground.
There is so much more to explore in the Civil Rights exhibit, but I’ll leave that for you to experience.
Upstairs, the Human Rights’ exhibit had a different, more scholastic tone.
There is no way not to be spellbound as you walk through this museum. Given Atlanta’s importance in the Civil Right’s Movement, it is wonderful that such a center exists in this city.
This history is everyone’s history, illustrating a pivotal time in American history. Be sure to explore the Center’s website for even more information and details on how to visit.
Also, the Center is part of Atlanta City Pass, giving you discounted admission here as well as four other Atlanta attractions!