I cannot tell you how power the exhibits that we viewed were. The first area in which we walked was very interactive--lots to read and listen to; words spoken by people on both sides of the civil rights issues.
I was thankful we waited to go with my husband as he knows a great deal about this time in history--people, issues, etc. He was able to give a lot more information about each of the people we read about on the walls. He actually did a mini-tour (our joke). While he spoke to our children other guest leaned in to hear what he was sharing, so he raised his voice a bit more so they could hear as well.
One of the sections that truly jumped out at me was the wall featuring the Freedom Riders. Over the past year I've done my own study about them and just this summer, at a justice and art festival, I was part of a screening for the movie Freedom Riders: Could You Get On the Bus?
What stood out the most were the mug shots on the side of a partially chard greyhound bus. Looking into the eyes of all those young people who decided that enough was enough--they had to do something about all the inequality and injustice.
The next areas hold videos from the March on Washington. There is a full screen wall playing those videos life-sized. The opposite wall contains pictures and write-ups on the key players in the planning and execution of the march. I was pleasantly surprised that they included the history of how women were strategically left out of the program--Josephine Baker being the only one. We learned the Dorothy Height played a major role and even spoke to the men-folk about their marginalization of the women. Although she did not speak, she was instrumental in having King placed at the end of the program.
It was emotional. I was thankful for this time and for sharing it with my family. Being able to listen to clips of songs and speeches, in their own words and voices. Yes, very powerful.
One sad thing is that it showed, in no uncertain terms, things have not changed as much as we would be made to believe. Yes, we've made strides forward but as I look around at what happening in our country today the system is still the same. Change is still needed. This strengthens my resolve to continue to learn, to continue to teach my children about our history and what we still need to be doing to move towards justice for all today.
I will say that there is too much to try to digest in one visit. We only made it through the first section--and only 2/3 of that. I'm looking forward to going again and again and again. I've already come up with several ways to better prepare my children for our next visit. We're looking to make this a regular trip to add to our history lessons and cultural development.
If you're in the area, I highly recommend this for you and your children. Plan to take your time--to really see and listen. There is a lot to read as well, so if you have younger ones, you may want to plan to go through at just look at photos. There are several more graphic images--which even we didn't pause to view--that you may want to avoid as well. But overall, this is worth your time and investment. There is a family guide that you may want to check out prior to your visit.
Here's a link to the main site where you can find out more about the hours, tickets and galleries. Should you not be local, this is definitely one of the sites you'll want to see when you visit.