Center for Civil and Human Rights
Visiting the Center for Civil and Human Rights was a powerful opportunity to expose my 6-year-old daughter Micah to the idea that we shouldn’t take for granted our many privileges and rights.
The center encompasses three permanent galleries and one temporary exhibition space. In the “Spark of Conviction: The Global Human Rights Movement” gallery, the wall of mirrors introduced us to stories from people all over the world who still live in areas plagued by violence and prejudice. We saw portraits of positive historical figures such as Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt and Nelson Mandela opposite pictures of dictators who committed acts of evil. Immediately, we recognized the symbolism of good versus evil – Micah pointed out that the dictators were all photographed in black and white, while those who fought for human rights were in beautiful color canvas prints hanging on the wall like a ray of sunshine.
This location also had some history that Micah found disturbing. We learned about how some countries allow children to be employed in “sweat shops” making items that we use here. We saw stories of children making soccer balls all day and working on cocoa plantations for little or no money. We discussed how that differs from the life she knows. We expressed our thankfulness by adding a message to the “I Am Screen.” Ours was simply, “I am thankful 4 chocolate.”
The “Rolls Down Like Water: The American Civil Rights Movement” gallery felt heavy and dark from the color on the walls to the footage on the videos. We were drawn to a bus covered in pictures of those who participated in the “Freedom Rides.” The vehicle in the gallery brought to life the concept that Americans gave up their individual freedom to fight for the freedom of all. There were many video clips throughout the gallery that continued to share these historical moments, including a room that honored the four young girls killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing in Birmingham, Ala. Stained glass windows that hang high on the wall depict each little girl with her name. Micah asked, “Mommy, what are their names?” As I read each name, I became teary. History does not recall them by individual names, but instead as “the four little girls.” Reading their names made it more personal.
A family guide, Across Generations, available on the center’s website, includes kid-level explanations of concepts like civil disobedience, discussion and reflection activities, an overview of kids’ rights, descriptions of historical heroes and a crossword puzzle and a word search. While most adults know about “the four little girls,” for instance, few know about a brave 6-year-old named Ruby Bridges, the only African-American in her school in New Orleans. Download a copy of the guide at civilandhumanrights.org/family-guide before you visit to make the experience richer.
We also visited the “Voice to the Voiceless” Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection. On display here are portions of Dr. King’s most honored speeches, handwritten on scraps of paper with markings and changes throughout. I used the moments we stood surrounded by his work to share with Micah the value in making your voice heard to change the world for the better.
– Caren Lightfoot