The National Center for Civil and Human Rights is one of my favorite Civil Rights museums of all time and I’ve been to quite a few.
My family and I went on vacation last week, taking a road trip through the South and ending up in Georgia to see my great aunt and great uncle. Because we have the Queen of Planning on our side (my mom) it was an awesome trip and the best part is it has all been fairly inexpensive. For the first several days, we brought our own food to make things like sandwiches and even spaghetti, we also did free but awesome activities such as seeing the Mississippi river, the Cypress Preserve in Greenville, and the Sloss Furnace Historical Landmark. We’ve had the perfect blend between activities and downtime.
Although I had many favorites, there is one that stands out in my mind relevant to the message that I am trying to send through this site.
On Tuesday, the day after we made it to my aunt and uncle’s house, we went to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.
I come from a family that truly believes all people have value. We should treat all people with respect and dignity. My mother instilled a deep sense of compassion for all types of people. Martin Luther King was the focus of many of my research and English papers. I’ve been to my share of civil rights museums. The National Center for Civil and Human Rights takes the cake.
Exhibits in the National Center for Civil and Human Rights
It didn’t just cover the struggles of African Americans, but it covered the struggles of many groups. Examples of the groups represented were People with disabilities, women, immigrants, LGBT, Americans, citizens of other countries, etc. The museum was highly interactive. The journey started with an exhibit featuring stories from the groups mentioned above and even more. It had several touch screens set up and as you moved close enough to a particular one, it activated your choices and let you pick a story to listen to. All stories were prompted by the words “I am…” Jewish, Gay, Christian, a woman, etc.
This led to my favorite part of the the National Center for Civil and Human Rights “The Spark of Conviction,” the Global Human Rights Museum. It talked about different dictators and featured people throughout the centuries, who defended human rights (Human Rights Champions), such as Martin Luther King, Gandhi and Yelena Bonner.
One exhibit was dedicated to the Civil Rights movement of the ’50s and ’60s. This part of the museum was also interactive with videos and recordings of the different stories. The most involved part was the lunch counter simulator. This simulation helped give you a taste of what participants might have experienced during the events such as the sit-ins.
They sat you at a diner table, had you place your hands in a designated spot and listen to a recording of people antagonizing you, whispering in your ear, saying whatever they could to try to get you to fight or back down and leave. The seat jostled like they were bumping up against you. They encouraged that you closed your eyes. Although I knew it wasn’t real, I was too scared to close my eyes.
Human Rights Exhibit
My favorite part of the the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, was the Human Rights Exhibit. Partly because it’s something I’m passionate in learning about and one day hope to be apart of the solution in a major way. Also a portion of the Human Rights Exhibit was something I have never seen in a museum before. It gave information about the process for every day products such as electronics, chocolate, clothing, etc., and how the how the process to get those products violates human rights. This fight often ignored in the name of convenience, but it’s a serious issue.
The electronics portion (Not shown in picture) was one of the many processes that caught my attention. Many electronic manufactures use child labor. Workers at these factories work impossible hours at ridiculously low wages. Many of the product lines have leukemia causing substances like benzene, formaldehyde, arsenic and radioactive material, in addition to hazardous working conditions, medical services are not covered through these companies.
Not only do these companies have sub par working conditions, but they also have to mine for these materials. Commonly used materials are copper, cobalt and coltan. Children between 5 and 14 commonly work these mines. The numerous health risks associated with mining these materials are why the UN’s International Labor Organization called mining one of the worst forms of child labor.
I found this section of the exhibit fascinating because it’s underrepresented in most conversations. Our actions have consequences in many areas and it’s important to consider others when making these decisions.
For more information on having vacations with impact, check out these ways to have an eco-friendly vacation. Have you visited the National Center for Civil and Human Rights? Let us know in the comments!
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