MLK50: A Legacy Remembered
through December 2018 • State of tennessee gallery
Dr. Noelle Trent, Director of Interpretation, Collection & Education
Ryan M. Jones, Museum Educator
MLK50 A Legacy Remembered reflects on the 50 years since King’s tragic death and the historic reaction to his death while also examining the continued impact of his legacy on people and events throughout the world. By focusing on his last year, the exhibition emphasizes rarely examined aspects of King’s social justice agenda by comparing contemporary events like the Occupy Movement and the Living Wage Campaign with the Poor People’s Campaign and Sanitation Strike.
The exhibit uniquely examines King’s relationship to Memphis. Looking beyond the last days of King to his earlier visits to the city, the role of the Lorraine Motel and its owners Walter and Loree Bailey; how the city wrestled with the events surrounding King’s death. Files from the FBI and the State of Tennessee’s evidence collection, partially housed at the museum, were consulted to recreate a timeline of King’s movements during his final 48 hours in Memphis.
MLK50: A Legacy Remembered features over 150 photographs. There are 9 rarely seen photographs from Memphis photographer Ernest Withers, a friend of Dr. King’s who documented his work in Memphis and the Sanitation Strike. As well as 44 photographs from Chicago-based photographer Art Shay, whose color photographs document the turmoil in city from the evening of April 4 to April 8 when King’s body was delivered to the Memphis airport.
Additional exhibit highlights include the Lorraine Motel 1968 guestbook; a rare memo from James Lawson instructing Silent March participants; MLK Street Study by team of geographers led by University of Tennessee – Knoxville geographer Dr. Derek Alderman; six-foot rendition of a Resurrection City Tent from the Poor People’s Campaign.
“Our goal is to provide a historical context for King’s work during 1967 and 1968, as well as the events that took place in Memphis on April 3-4,” said Noelle Trent, NCRM’s Director of Interpretation, Collections & Education.
“We want to not only show the aftermath of those events but also illustrate King’s influence on everything from modern social justice movements to politics to pop culture in the years since then. From Elvis to President Obama, Nichelle Nichols to Black Lives Matter, Dr. King’s legacy has had a lasting impact on our society and culture.”