National Civil Rights Museum


I mentioned briefly last week that we visited the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee.

When you walk up to the museum, almost the first thing you see is this balcony where Martin Luther King Jr was shot and killed on April 4, 1968.

Inside the museum we watched a film about Martin Luther King Jr’s last days in Memphis with several excerpts of the final speech he made at a rally the night before his death.  In his speech, he seems to be actually preparing for his death.  He knows it is coming. So many threats have been made and so many people who are fighting for freedom have already had their lives cut short.

He was 39 years old.  The same age as Dietrich Bonhoeffer was when he was killed by the Nazis.

Bonhoeffer’s story was fresh in my mind upon visiting this museum, so I saw many parallels.  Both men loved their people so much, and admired Gandhi and hoped to accomplish great change through non-violent methods.

Both men seemed to know that their lives were being taken from them before their causes were finished, and both men seemed to have a supernatural peace in the face of imminent death.

Maybe it is because I am currently 39 years old that all the words of both of these men, in Bonhoeffer’s book and in King’s Mountain Top speech, struck me so deeply this month.

I cried like a baby during the movie at the museum, so I later sought out this speech when I got home.

You can listen to a recording of the entire speech at this link or watch a small clip of it, but here is the end of it, the part that is quoted as you walk up to the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr was shot.  I think I might start reading this part out loud before I leave the house every day.  So inspiring!

I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.

And I don’t mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

And so I’m happy, tonight.

I’m not worried about anything.

I’m not fearing any man!

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!


Black History Month is wrapping up at the kids’ schools and in our house, but I don’t want that to mean that we stop learning.  I have one or two more new children’s books about Civil Rights that I’m excited to share!

What’s your favorite MLK speech?  (There are so many wonderful ones!)


  1. Such a powerful museum. Make sure you take tissues if you go. I think the mountaintop speech is my fave.

  2. […] reality that I have paid closer attention to people who die with dignity and without fear. Like Martin Luther King, Jr. Like Dietrich […]

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