By Herb Hilliard
Chair, Museum Board of Directors
Terri Lee Freeman answered the call to lead the National Civil Rights Museum in November 2014. She arrived just a few months after the museum’s most expansive renovation. She came to the museum understanding the huge investment and brought with her a new perspective on what the museum could represent in not only telling the story of the civil rights movement, but extending the story through the museum’s outreach and engagement. Through her strategic leadership, she furthered the museum’s mission as an educational and cultural institution.
Terri emphasized the connection between the historic civil rights era and today’s contemporary issues placing her emphasis on building the organization’s reputation as the ‘new public square.’ She shepherded the board’s vision of making this not solely a museum, but a calling of the movement. And, she pursued the role the museum needed to play in it.
The best example of that role was MLK50. Here was an opportunity to call communities around the nation and the world to examine what, if anything, we had learned since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s death 50 years ago and ask the question as he did, “Where do we go from here?”
What I’ve witnessed as chair of the board is Terri’s determination to make the historical interpretation presented in the museum be relevant to what our visitors see every day, whether it’s in their neighborhoods, on social media or in the news. She’s stressed the importance of the museum being a mirror for the continued struggle. Her strategic focus also ensured the museum’s programming was reflective of the six principles of Dr. King’s in his later years, because those issues still prevailed.
Now we have the difficult task of saying ‘so long’ to an effective leader and wishing her well in her new endeavors. Terri is leaving the museum in great financial shape and has retained a great staff. She’s done an incredible job and will certainly be missed.
We must now determine our next steps in moving forward with the continued success of the National Civil Rights Museum. We will leverage the six years that Terri Lee Freeman gave us and stay true to preserving Dr. King’s legacy, telling the ongoing struggle for civil and human rights and serving as a catalyst to inspire positive social change.