When first considering Memphis as an Old Home destination, we thought about visiting Graceland and dining on Beale Street. So we arranged to go to Memphis and we visited Graceland and had a dinner on Beale Street. Both were memorable and worthy of the trip, however, if you have only a day to visit this city, use the time to visit the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel. We were both approximately 11 years old when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4th, 1968, but as is the case with most historically tragic events, it is a day you remember. Images of King laying on the balcony outside of room 306 with members of his party pointing toward the boarding house across the street remain indelibly marked in the minds of our generation.
The Lorraine Motel is now the National Civil Rights Museum. The museum (recently reopened after a major renovation) does a great job of tracing the history of the Civil Rights Movement from the early days of slavery to the present. The exhibits and commentary from reconstruction, to Jim Crow laws, to King’s assassination are both exceptionally educational and extremely sobering. All the key people and events are presented through various interactive exhibits including a burned out replica bus ridden by the Freedom Riders during their trip through Birmingham AL. It is hard to believe that we lived during a time when a city Police Commissioner could organize with the Ku Klux Klan to attack civil rights activists riding on a bus through their city… and get away with it. Google “Freedom Riders”.
The main tour ends at room 306 (King’s room) and the boarding house room and bathroom where James Earl Ray pulled the trigger. Very surreal to stand in that place, look through the windows and see the balcony where King was shot.
So, if you have more than one day and are a fan of Elvis Presley, go to Graceland. The house itself is interesting in that it remains decorated in a 70’s motif of paneling and shag carpet, but the tour is actually a bit tacky. Visitors wear headphones which narrate the events of Elvis’s life and describe the furnishings throughout the house. The tour includes the meditation garden where Elvis and his parents are buried and a museum containing many of his famous Vegas jumpsuits, awards, and gold records. Also on display is his large auto collection as well as the Lisa Marie jetliner. Living Room