Georgia is getting a new civil rights museum that has just begun its construction phase and is scheduled to open in the spring of 2014. The National Center for Civil and Human Rights will be a valuable nucleus for human rights issues and history, not only in Georgia’s tumultuous past in civil rights, but for the nation.
No doubt, it will significantly increase tourism in the state, which is a valuable economic boost, but most importantly if will provide access and insight into a history of which our students need to be aware and we need to be reminded. George Santayana’s famous admonition says it all: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." While we have certainly come a very long way with civil rights issues, we are by no means living in a fully fair and equal society.
Located in the tourists’ heart of the city, adjacent to the World of Coke, Centennial Olympic Park, Georgia Aquarium, and The Children’s Museum doesn’t mean that it’s appropriate for all of those audiences, though, so don’t rush to sign up a tour for your Kindergarten or first grade classes just yet. Civil rights issues are often complicated and have historically been violent. The exhibit includes the papers of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., which would be remarkable to see. However, there is also a gallery focused on lynching, a disturbing but very real part of civil rights history in America.
This center should certainly provide opportunities for education, enlightenment, and consideration for our past. I expect it will also have an impact on our future to have a monument commemorating the contrast of our past with the hope of a future where all are truly free and accepted as viable participants in a healthy community.