Memphis, TN, May 02, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The National Civil Rights Museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian, will kick off the nationwide tour of Solidarity Now! 1968 Exhibition of the campaign of the poor on May 14. The Smithsonian exhibit explores the little-known history of the multicultural movement to fight poverty and social justice in the country. The Poor People’s Campaign was the last initiative led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Leadership Conference (SCLC) before he was killed at the Lorraine Motel, which is now the site of the museum.
In the 1960s, as the United States became a global model of wealth and democracy, approximately 25 million Americans lived in poverty. From the elderly and underemployed to children and the disabled, poverty affected people of all races, ages and religions. In response, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, led by King and Ralph Abernathy, organized the Poor People’s Campaign as a national human rights crusade.
Pledging to continue the fight for civil and human rights after King’s death, Coretta Scott King and the SCLC leadership of the Poor People’s Campaign held a memorial service to unveil a memorial plaque for King at the Lorraine Motel on May 2 1968. The plaque remains in the museum today. A campaign poster was plastered on the motel’s balcony railing as leaders announced they would continue the fight for civil rights, especially debilitating poverty. The group symbolically led the first steps of the King-inspired March of the Poor on Washington.
“We are extremely honored to host the Solidarity Now! In February 1968, Dr. King and his team used the motel boardroom to plan the upcoming campaign,” said Dr. Noelle Trent, director of interpretation, collections and education at the museum. “It is only fitting that this exposure tour begins here at the Lorraine Motel where the decision to continue the campaign was announced by Coretta Scott King and Abernathy on May 2, 1968.”
As a multi-ethnic movement that included African Americans, Mexicans, Native Americans, Puerto Ricans, Asians, and poor whites from Appalachia and rural communities, the six-week community protest in Washington drew protesters across the country. Campaign leaders have presented demands to Congress, including demands for jobs, living wages, and access to land, capital, and health care. It was the first large-scale protest organized nationwide after King’s death.
The title of the exhibition refers to the Solidarity Day rally held on June 19, 1968, as the culmination and cornerstone of the movement. The rally at the Lincoln Memorial featured speeches from celebrities, activists and campaign organizers as a follow-up to the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.
Solidarity now! features photographs, oral histories of campaign participants and organizers, and an array of protest signs, political buttons and field audio recordings collected during the campaign. The exhibit explores the importance of the tactics and impact of this campaign which drew thousands of people to build a community of protest on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. For nearly six weeks they inhabited “a City of Hope” on 15 acres between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial to bring the nation’s attention to the crippling effects of poverty for millions of Americans. The site of the protest was called Resurrection City.
Through a 3D map of Resurrection City, visitors can examine planned spaces for housing, a cultural center, city hall, a theater stage and essential services, including facilities for catering, sanitation , communications, education, medical and dental care, and child care.
Organized by the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service (SITES) and the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Solidarity Now! will be on view at the National Civil Rights Museum through July 31 before continuing on a 10-city national tour.
The exhibit is supported by the CVS Health Foundation, a private foundation created by CVS Health to help people live healthier lives. It is included in the entrance to the museum. For more information, visit civilrightsmuseum.org.
About the National Civil Rights Museum
The NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM, located in the historic Lorraine Motel where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, provides a comprehensive overview of the American civil rights movement, from slavery to our days. Since the Museum opened in 1991, millions of visitors from all over the world have come, including more than 90,000 students per year. The Museum is unwavering in its mission to chronicle the American civil rights movement and tell the story of the ongoing struggle for human rights. It educates and serves as a catalyst to inspire action to create positive social change.
The Museum is recognized as a 2019 National Medal recipient by the Institute of Museums and Library Services (IMLS), the highest national honor for museums and libraries. These are TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Top 5% American Museums, Top 10 Iconic American Attractions in the United States Today; Top 10 Best Historic Sites in the United States by TLC’s Family Travel; To see before the age of 15 by Budget Travel and Kids; Top 10, US Treasures by USA Today; and Top Memphis Attraction by The Commercial Appeal and Memphis Business Journal.
About the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibits Service (SITES)
SITES and Smithsonian Affiliations are essential national outreach units at the Smithsonian Institution. For more than 65 years, SITES has connected Americans to their shared cultural heritage through a wide range of exhibits on art, science and history. Smithsonian Affiliations establishes and maintains the Smithsonian’s long-term partnerships with museums, educational organizations and cultural institutions in the United States, Puerto Rico and Panama. Together, SITES and Affiliations share the vast resources of the Smithsonian with millions of people outside of Washington, DC. Visit http://sites.si.edu and https://affiliations.si.edu/ for more information.
About the National Museum of African American History and Culture
Since its opening on September 24, 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, has welcomed more than 7 million visitors. The nearly 400,000 square foot museum is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive cultural destination dedicated exclusively to exploring, documenting and presenting African American history and its impact on the American and world history. For more information about the museum, visit nmaahc.si.edu
Connie Dyson National Civil Rights Museum 901-331-5460 [email protected]