Visiting Memphis

Lee's Summit JournalJune 25, 2014 

The almost-annual trip to Memphis this year had some new components added in this time around.

Generally, enjoying the atmosphere of blues music and world-class BBQ is more than enough to keep me busy on this adventure. But this year I decided to expand out a little further.

Downtown Memphis is a treasure and something I hadn’t really had a chance to see much of during past trips. The live music scene extends past Beale Street and there are several historical and enjoyable stops in a downtown area that extends far larger than I had known.

I spent one afternoon at the Civil Rights Museum, and it was an experience that I will never forget.

Walking down Main Street, many blocks away from the entertainment district, a whole experience of emotions awaited me. I should have visited this place long ago.

As you approach the old Lorraine Motel – sight of the April 4, 1968 murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. – a wave of sentiments and feelings rushed over me.

Right in front of my eyes was Room 306, where King was standing when a bullet from a monster, James Earl Ray, struck him in the neck. King died an hour later.

A wreath hangs over ledge in front of the room. And a subsequent tour of the museum allowed me an opportunity to walk in between Rooms 306 and 307 to read about the events that led up to that day, the struggle the sanitation workers faced in Memphis, King’s vow of non-violence and how the world changed on that fateful day.

The museum itself is a treasure of information and history, from the actual bus Rosa Parks was arrested on to video clips from Bloody Sunday in Birmingham, Alabama, the history of African slavery in the United States and individual stories of Americans who helped shape the Civil Rights Movement.

While somber, the museum was a great educational experience for me, something I needed to see and hear in person since I was not alive in 1968.

No matter what your religious or political affiliation, the murder of Dr. King and the subsequent change in our culture that followed surely had a profound impact on all of our lives, and that continued into the 1970s, 80s and even into today.

And the visit was a good reminder to me that, even today, we cannot tolerate hate and inequality.

That those that speak out for justice are sometimes targeted by the ignorant.

And it is our duty to speak up for those who sometimes do not have a strong enough voice of their own.


John Beaudoin is the publisher of the Lee’s Summit Journal. To comment, call 816-282-7001 or e-mail

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