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National Civil Rights Museum

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Memphis, TN

A museum which educates the public on the Civil Rights Movement and preserves the historic location of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination.

The National Civil Rights Museum (NCRM) opened in 1991 at the site of the infamous Lorraine Motel, the site of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination. The NCRM was created to educate the public on the Civil Rights Movement and its impact on the world through exhibits and collections. After Dr. King’s assassination, visitors no longer stayed at the Lorraine Motel and the property was foreclosed in 1982. Local residents feared this historic landmark would be destroyed due to neglect, and formed the Martin Luther King Memorial Foundation to save the Lorraine.

Nuts and Bolts:

  • In 1987, the MLK Memorial Foundation decided to transform the motel into a civil rights center, maintaining the room occupied by Dr. King as a memorial.
  • With support from the City of Memphis, Shelby County, and the State of Tennessee, $11 million was raised to build the National Civil Rights Museum. Outside of government support, a concert featuring Stevie Wonder raised supplemental funds. The museum opened on September 28, 1991.
  • Some of the highlights include a replica of the bus in which Rosa Parks refused to leave her seat. An automated driver provides audio of what the real driver said, allowing visitors to experience the racism Ms. Parks faced. Exhibits also feature the integration of the Little Rock Public Schools, the bombed-out Freedom Bus, and the integration of the University of Mississippi by James Meredith.
  • On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, admission is reduced to $1, allowing all families to experience and celebrate the life of  Dr. King.
  • The Museum also pays tribute to individuals whose actions display the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement, as it annually selects a national and international recipient of the Freedom Award. The Freedom Award honors those who have made significant accomplishments in civil rights and continue to promote human rights. Past recipients include Nelson Mandela, Sidney Poitier, Mikhail Gorbachev, and Colin Powell.


  • Over 1 million visitors have visited the site and average annual attendance now exceeds 150,000.
  • The museum prides itself on both entertaining and educating the public.
  • The museum is an asset to the Memphis/Shelby County region, providing educational and entertainment opportunities with its collections and exhibitions.
  • Besides celebrating history, the museum encourages participation in public forums discussing human rights issues during the week of the Freedom Award presentation. The National Civil Rights Museum restored a struggling motel by transforming it into a place of learning.

For more information on this program: National Civil Rights Museum