On the last day of our trip, we drove to Atlanta and visited the Martin Luther King, Jr. Museum. Everybody was thoroughly sick of everybody by now. We have been through so much, and have seen such things, and we sang Freedom songs all day–except we didn’t know all the words, so it was usually the same verse over and over.
One of the things that first struck me about the Museum was the statue of Ghandi. We’ve always mentioned Ghandi in our discussions of non-violence, but it was odd to see his monument in front of the Museum, and not Dr. King’s.
I spent a lot of time reading the anti-mysgenation laws exhibit. How deep the fear of “mongerelizing” the white race must lie, if states had laws against black barbers cutting white women and children’s hair! Not that I had a lot of faith in local governments before, but it was helpful to see the sheer amount of stupidity and legalized hate on an 8-foot-tall display.
Also, I thought the legislatures had an unhealthy obsession with Mongolians–surprising, considering the fact that the citizens of Louisiana have probably never seen a Mongolian in the late 1880s, or were even aware that Mongolia existed. Prof. Arsenault explained that apparently, that was the term for all non-Indian Asians back in the day, which I found somewhat amusing.
The most remarkable parts of the Museum, at least to me, were the ones concerning Dr. King’s funeral. First, there is the room in which the hearse that carried Dr. King’s body is displayed.
The walls are filled with newspapers, magazines, and pictures of his family. It is an emotional place. One of my fellow Riders, an undergrad, started sobbing, and my heart ached for her, too. “He was a leader, but we forget that he was also a husband, a father,” she said in a broken voice.
Dr. and Mrs. King’s graves are marble monuments in the middle of a pool of turquoise water. I remembered that a speaker at the Southern Poverty Law Center explained that they used water for their monuments, too, because “water is healing.”
We sat down by the pool, and, looking at the Eternal Flame that burns to the left of the monument, sang “This Little Light of Mine.” I did not feel sad, my hand in the cool water. All in my room, I’m gonna let it shine–two girls, daughters of Russian and German immigrants, singing an old “Negro” spiritual on Martin Luther King’s grave–let it shine let it shine let it shine.
So, that’s where the Freedom Ride took us.