Visiting the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel with Kids
By Meg Brunson
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968 while standing on the 2nd floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, just outside of his room #306. That motel has since been converted into the National Civil Rights Museum. The museum was created to honor the life and legacy of Dr. King, as well as to educate on civil rights history and continue to inspire positive change when it comes to issues of social justice and civil rights. Learning about the assassination of Dr. King via a book or the internet pales in comparison to visiting the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel.
My family loves learning from first-hand experiences, including visiting historic sites, and we place a high value on social justice and civil rights. As I plan where to go as we explore the US, I am constantly seeking out diverse educational experiences. We absolutely could not miss visiting the National Civil Rights Museum.
We visited in April of 2021 during the Covid Pandemic and the museum was very well organized to stagger admission of pre-purchased ticket holders to reduce crowding inside the venue, and masks were required. Unlike some places we’ve visited, the mask mandate was followed by everyone we encountered.
The museum experience begins with exploring the Trans-Atlantic slave trade; the kidnapping of African people, erasing their identities and culture, and enslaving them under inhumane conditions. The kids saw familiar faces like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, and they also learned about the harsh reality that families were ripped apart and even little babies were enslaved. A short film followed this exhibit and laid the foundations for the rest of the museum experience.
Museum exhibits focused on the Montgomery Bus Boycotts, Freedom Rides, Selma March/Bloody Sunday, Sit-Ins, Black Panthers/Black Power, and (of course) the life, death, and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
While there are heavy topics and violence depicted at this museum, it’s our decision as parents to expose our children to the harsh realities of the world. We translate the lessons into age-appropriate terms and use examples to draw parallels that they will understand. We are honest with them about our feelings and when we’re unsure of answers to questions they ask – and then we’ll seek out museum staff to help answer their questions. Staff at this museum were incredible. The museum also offers some amazing resources on preparing to visit with kids that I’ve linked below.
My hope is that through exposing our children to civil rights history, and having these difficult discussions with them, they’ll be able to identify racism (and other injustices) when they see them, and they’ll be equipped to help. I want them to understand how they can be part of the solution. In the video below, taken the night we visited the museum, I talk with my 5-year-old about what she saw and learned.
Tips for a Terrific Trip:
- Due to the COVID Pandemic, guests are required to purchase timed-entry tickets online in advance of their visit. This is a destination that you 100% should visit, and walking by to take a photo is not enough. Make sure you get your tickets in advance to experience the full impact that the museum experience has to offer.
- Family-friendly resources offered by the museum:
- A robust Family Guide helps you prepare your kids for the experience, as well as offering a suggested list of books to read with your kids before visiting at: https://www.civilrightsmuseum.org/Assets/2417/FamilyGuide2014_singlePgs.pdf
- A storytime series that you can watch (all or some of) before attending to open some conversations about civil rights. Of course, these stories can also be enjoyed following your visit. https://www.civilrightsmuseum.org/small-but-mighty-storytime
- Student Resources at https://www.civilrightsmuseum.org/students to continue learning before/after their visit.
- On the website, the National Civil Rights Museum recommends an hour and a half to experience the museum. We spent quite a bit more time than that to go through and consume the information first, then explain it to the kids.
- Food & Drinks. There are no concessions on site, and food and drinks are not allowed in the museum. If we visit again, I would suggest packing a lunch or snack in a cooler to be left in the car. After experiencing the main exhibit, you exit and cross the street to the secondary (smaller) exhibit that includes all the criminal evidence of the assassination. I would suggest giving the kids a break/snack at this time so that it will buy a little more time in that last exhibit. But don’t skip it!
Start planning your trip at: https://www.civilrightsmuseum.org/visit
Read about some of the other adventures we're having on our Indefinite Road Trip!
© 2021 Meg Brunson
Thanks to the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel for sponsoring this review. All opinions expressed are my own. See more on Instagram!
Meg is a mommy blogger, Facebook marketer, and much more. She is a mom to four kids who live full-time in an RV exploring the US! As a former Facebook employee, Meg remains a Facebook addict and handles KidsOutAndAbout.com's Social Media Marketing in addition to providing freelance services for other small businesses on how to best leverage Facebook as a part of their marketing strategy. Meg also hosts the FamilyPreneur Podcast, a podcast for parent entrepreneurs raising entrepreneurial children. Learn more about Meg at MegBrunson.com!