Atlanta Brings Civil Rights Struggle to Life with New Center
The goal of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights is to inspire people to make changes for the greater good. (Photo: Blane Bachelor)
By Blane Bachelor
Authentic footage depicting civil rights protests, hard-hitting, interactive exhibits, and selections from the $22 million collection of personal papers from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., are among the many highlights of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in downtown Atlanta, which officially opened to the public June 23.
The $80 million center spans an impressive 43,000 square feet over three levels, but it offers a surprisingly intimate experience.
A multi-year collaboration of civil rights leaders, historians, and renowned photographers, artists, and other creative types, it takes visitors on an emotional yet uplifting journey through the Civil Rights movement in the U.S., starting with the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling, and transitioning into modern-day human rights struggles.
The center’s exterior. (Photo: Ashley O’Dell/Atlanta Convention & Visitors)
The goal, founders and organizers say, is not to overwhelm visitors with history, but rather inspire them to make change for the greater good in their own lives.
“Only 25% of Americans alive today heard the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” center CEO Doug Shipman told FoxNews.com during a tour at the center. “We want people to come with their own stories and identities and perspectives, and find themselves here, find people who look like them, find people who they identify with, and then piece together what is meaningful for them to go forward and work on the issues that they care about.”
King’s influence forms a compelling theme throughout, but the center also focuses on sharing the stories of lesser-known heroes of the civil rights movement.
“These are people who led these very complicated and full lives, who managed to include in their lives a sense of responsibility for other people,” the center’s chief creative officer and Tony Award-winning playwright George C. Wolfe said by phone. “We’re trying to squeeze in as many of those individuals in there as we possibly can.”
The gallery features human rights icons such as Nelson Mandela, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Mahatma Gandhi. (Photo: Ashley O’Dell/Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau)