As the nation prepares for Black History Month, various achievements and milestones will be celebrated. But one place where Black history is alive each and every day is The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. In fact, this month the Museum celebrates 20 years of welcoming visitors and fulfilling its mission of educating and inspiring the masses who make the pilgrimage to see America’s Civil Rights history documented in the 36,000 square feet of exhibit space. To honor the Museum’s twenty years of Connecting People and History, the Museum is launching several campaigns and special events:
• First major renovation is being planned to expand exhibits, increase visitor amenities
• $20for20 campaign, $1 dollar for each year of operation, for a $20 donation
• 1991 Birthday celebration. People born in 1991 will receive a 20% discount on museum admission through the end of 2011
• Freedom Award Ceremony to honor those for Activism, Education, Medicine/Healthcare, Humanitarianism, Philanthropy, Media/Film, Sports Community Action, Legal Justice and Icons of the American Civil Rights Movement. This is the first time the slate of honorees has been expanded beyond three people. The Freedom Award ceremony will be held on November 12, 2011.
• Endowment campaign will preserve and fund the Museum’s educational and historical programming
Quite naturally the National Civil Rights Museum is still so relevant today precisely because Civil and Human Rights is relevant today. According to Museum president Beverly Robertson, “We teach about a national movement that had global implications. By that, we can see how Russia, China, South Africa and Poland used some of the very same non violent and organizing strategies the American Civil Rights movement used to gain voting rights, make legislative changes, and abolish and challenge discrimination.” But certainly achieving this mission has not been without difficulty from time to time. “As in any non profit, our biggest challenge is to develop new streams of revenue to guarantee the upkeep, staffing and educational programs that are needed,” adds Robertson.
Yet the Museum has managed to overcome any financial hurdles over the years to reach such a landmark. “Over 3 million (people have visited) since we opened in 1991 with 600,000 of those being students. It is a huge and wonderful milestone we want to share with the world,” says Robertson. Among some of the most famous faces to travel to the Museum: “We just did a Famous Friends wall installation for our 20th anniversary celebration, ” exclaims Robertson. Notables include President Bill Clinton, President George W. Bush, President Nelson Mandela, Soledad O’Brien, Sean Penn, Elie Wiesel, Ann Curry and Tom Hanks; just to name a few.
In addition, the Museum was the first US site to house the International Peace Flame and is accredited by the American Association of Museums. All information regarding the 20th anniversary is posted on the Museum’s Web site: civilrightsmuseum.org <http://civilrightsmuseum.org>
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