History's Journey: On the Road to the Civil Rights Past, Day 7

On June 11, nine Pitt students set off on the 15th annual Returning to the Roots of Civil Rights bus tour, a nine-day, 2,300-mile journey crisscrossing five states. In addition to visiting sites associated with the fight for racial justice, students are hearing from men and women who participated in the movement.

Friday, June 17
Day 7—Slavery and Beyond

Today we visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn. It is based at the former Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. This has been my favorite museum so far because of its comprehensiveness: It chronicles the Civil Rights Movement from the Atlantic slave trade through today. It also includes an exhibit on the Black Panther Party and the Black Power Movement—a topic that has been missing in all the other museums we’ve seen.
—Aisha Hughes, Pitt junior

The relationship between charismatic leadership and a movement is an interesting one. Many believe that a charismatic leader determines the movement’s success, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement. Or is it the regional leadership of local movements that creates a charismatic leader? It’s been interesting to think about that question during this trip. The great legacy of Dr. King surely would not exist if there hadn’t been local, grassroots opposition to racial oppression and inequity in cities across the country. Regardless of which came first, Dr. King is commemorated as the father of the movement, leading his children out of the "slavery" of the Jim Crow South.
—Ava Mosbacher, Pitt senior

Photo above: A sign for the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., which now houses a museum. Below: The Lorraine Motel balcony where King was assassinated, outside Room 306. The funeral wreath marks the spot where King fell after being shot.