A big thanks to the Center for Civil and Human Rights for having us! We received complimentary tickets for museum admission but all of my opinions are honest and my own.
The Center for Civil and Human Rights opened in downtown Atlanta, the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr, in 2014. Located on land donated from the Coca-Cola Company at Pemberton Place, the museum sits near the Georgia Aquarium, the World Of Coca-Cola and Centennial Olympic Park, putting it in the heart of the touristy area of downtown. Like the other tourist destinations in Atlanta, the Center for Civil and Human Rights should not be missed! Lexie and I visited the Center on our recent Girls Weekend trip to Atlanta with another mom/daughter that we know from Girl Scouts.
As you enter the Civil Rights portion of the museum, you walk through a hallway covered with scenes from pre-Civil Rights Atlanta- one side of the wall is “White” and the other is “Colored”.
Both sides feature the smiling faces of people that look proud to be members of their community. There are pictures of families, holidays, athletic events and general life in the South.
There are TV’s playing footage from the Civil Rights Movement throughout the first exhibit area and listening to the information was a nice contrast to reading about it on the walls of the exhibit.
The side of an old bus, covered with the mug shots of Freedom Riders from the 1960s, both black and white, does a great job conveying the magnitude of the Civil Rights Movement.
The girls listened to oral histories from the Freedom Riders. I really expected them to listen to one and then move on through the museum but they listened to each and every one available and found them fascinating!
The Lunch Counter was the single most moving exhibit in the entire museum- it’s only recommended for the 13+ crowd as it can be quite intense. You sit down at the counter, put the headphones on, spread your hands on the counter, close your eyes, and listen (and feel) the 90-second simulation of being a non-violent protester in the 1960s. I cannot imagine actually living through it and the tenacity it would have taken to remain non-violent. Sitting through the reenactment that I clearly knew was not real and would end in 90 seconds was brutal!
Already raw from the Lunch Counter simulation, the 16th Street Bombing exhibit shook the girls to their core. They were shocked to learn about these girls, who were not much younger, worshipping in a church much like their own, who were brutally killed just because of the color of their skin. While they’ve both learned about this incident at school, seeing it presented like this made it so much more real for them.
After seeing photographs of the bloodstained balcony where Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Birmingham, we watched video footage from his funeral.
The view from the third floor of the museum is spectacular- World of Coca-Cola is on the left and the Georgia Aquarium is on the right, and it provides a wonderful transition from the Civil Rights Gallery to the Human Rights Gallery.
The third floor houses the Human Rights Movement Gallery and the brightness and white displays are in stark contrast to the darkness of the Civil Rights Gallery. Lexie learned about people around the world who are persecuted for who they are or what they believe in (Men, Women, White, Black, Christian, Muslim, Disabled, etc) from this holographic mirrored display. The interactive nature of the exhibits really kept the girls engaged and involved in learning throughout the museum.
There is a wall of mass murderers: Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, and Idi Amin, and while the girls were aware of a couple, they were horrified to learn about the others and the massive loss of life inflicted by these men.
The Human Rights map highlights which countries are completely free, which have limited freedoms, and which ones are not free at all. Lexie was appalled to learn how many countries restrict the human rights that she’s so accustomed to having.
The girls (and the adult girls!) really enjoyed the Center for Civil and Human Rights. I realize that “enjoyed” conveys a sort of happiness about the museum, and it definitely was not a “happy” experience but rather one that ran the emotional gamut, but it was exceptionally well done. It proved to be an excellent starting point for talking both about history and why it’s important to learn from it, and human rights in the present day.
Walking through the museum (especially the Civil Rights portion) was an emotional experience akin to visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC. While it is kid-friendly, I would hesitate to bring Ellie (4) because it’s such a somber and sobering experience and I would have missed out on a lot of the museum while entertaining her. My recommendation is to go with the 8+ crowd but realize that the lunch counter specifically may be too intense for that age.
Things to Remember When You Visit the Center for Civil and Human Rights
- It is one of the most moving and emotional museums I have ever experienced so plan accordingly (and there are boxes of Kleenex throughout the museum).
- If you’re bringing kids, make sure that they’re prepared for the emotional nature of the exhibits and that you’re prepared for the questions that may arise. I wholeheartedly think it’s a great museum for kids, but it can be intense!
- The Center is open every day of the year except for Thanksgiving and Christmas (Mon-Sat 10am-5pm and Sun 12pm-5pm).
- If you’re planning to visit other Atlanta attractions (like the Aquarium or World of Coca-Cola), check out the Atlanta CityPASS to see if it will save you money (it most likely will!).