Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Log Book: Memphis, Tennessee USA

Memphis, Tennessee USA - June 2003
It’s Not the Heat, It’s the Humidity

Memphis Tennessee in June. It’s not the heat that gets you , it’s the humidity. You walk into the parking lot loaded with buses that announce they are from Oak Ridge Missionary Baptist Church, Huffman Baptist Church- Birmingham Alabama, First Baptist Church - Madison Mississippi and Baptist Missionary Association - Picayune Mississippi. You quickly notice that you are the only white person present with the exception of your 11 year old companion and 2 others you notice from a far. You realize that the next part of your journey will be about the color of your skin. You see the 1950’s style motel, the name “Lorraine Motel” and remember this was the place that the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

The National Civil Rights Museum is truly an American treasure. It is housed partly in the old Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. Room 206 is where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, it is the last stop in the museum’s first building .

You start your journey in an air conditioned room where you view a video presentation about the American Civil Rights movement. You begin your museum tour viewing “Slave Art”, paintings, sculpture and prints from African American artists, authors and poets. You are given a radio and headset so that James Earl Jones and other well know African Americans may narrate about each exhibit, at your own pace. Because of this, your tour becomes a very personal tour. You quickly go through the exhibit on slavery, because you know that subject very well. At least you think you do. You turn the corner and see the Ku Klux Klan “get-up” and see photos of lynchings. You stop at the exhibit that describes about why the NAACP was formed and you bring your hasty tour to snail’s pace. You return to the slave exhibit and start over.

It takes about 3 hours to tour The National Civil Rights Museum, but the time you spend will greatly broaden your knowledge of American History. How much does the average American know about the American Civil Rights movement? About the World Civil Rights movement? Who is Maya Angelou? Sojourner Truth? Sarah C. Roberts? Dred Scott? Nelson Mandella? Malcom X? Think you know? You probably don’t, but a wealth of information exists about these people and others at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee.

Our ultimate destination was Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama. Space Camp is an immensely anticipated part of the Science program in our homeschool. This year we decided to make it a bigger adventure. We toured part of the South too.

Graceland isn’t what you expect. It is like going through your neighbor’s house only on a larger scale in a way that only Elvis Presley could do it. I thought Graceland would be something quite different, but as you tour, you realize that this was a real person who had a refrigerator in his kitchen, a swing set in his back yard, slot cars in his basement and trained in the martial art of Tae Kwon Do. You find out that Elvis did great humanitarian works in Memphis, Tupelo and worldwide. You get to see all the great “outfits” he wore, all the awards he won. You leave the estate with a sense of loss and wonder what would have happened had this man lived longer.

The South is an interesting place. Like many other places in America, it is a place where you can conjure history, learn about our future, experience American music in the form of Gospel, Rock-A-Billy, Blues and Soul. Beale Street in Memphis is a great place to learn about the soul of American Music. It’s also a great place to find Southern style barbecue! And if you’re not up for Blues and barbecue, there’s a Hard Rock Cafe!

In the heart of Memphis is the world famous Peabody Hotel. Not only is the architecture and interior interesting, it contains a good collection of Memphis/Southern memorabilia. It also is home to the Peabody fountain where the world famous Peabody ducks live. Well they don’t really live in the fountain, they just “work” there from 11-5 each day. They live in a penthouse on the top floor of the hotel. Every day at 11 AM the Peabody ducks come down on the elevator, walk down a red carpet to “work “ in the fountain for the day. Then at 5PM, the ducks retreat back down the red carpet, to the elevator and go back up to their penthouse for the evening. Really!

Adding travel to your curriculum is a great way to reinforce what you study. Travel makes history come alive, Science seem more real, Art and Music exist within reach. Travel makes the world seem like a familiar place. For information on the National Civil Right Museum go to: www.civilrightsmuseum.org. For information on Graceland go to: www.elvis.com. For information on the Peabody hotel go to: www.peabodymemphis.com.