American South #8: A Unique Perspective

Hannah McKie ’22, reflects on “the power and impact regular, everyday people” can have in their communities.

Today was our final day on the American South Trip together. We spent our time visiting the Lorraine Motel, which was the site of MLK’s assassination. The site has since been transformed into a civil rights museum and memorial for MLK. Visiting this museum at the end of our trip was definitely interesting and I think we all had a unique perspective, given how much we had learned about the very things we saw before us. It seemed like the curators did the best they could to include as much important history as possible, however without prior knowledge, it was hard to absorb everything. One thing I did appreciate was the individual stories the museum was able to share. For example, one of the rooms had a tile that told the story of two sisters, Emily and Mary Edmonson, who were 16 and 14 years old when they attempted to flee their enslavement, and were helped by abolitionists who bought their freedom. The two girls went on to study at Oberlin and become abolitionists as well. I think it is easy to remove humanity from those who were enslaved or victims of racist and hateful crimes in general, but this trip helped me to see the power and impact of regular, everyday people.

The last part of the museum showed the room MLK stayed in minutes before his death. Just like with the story of Mary and Emily Edmonson, the exhibit gave humanity to MLK as we often learn about him as an immortal who carried the movement alone. I think one of the strengths of the museum in general was its ability to present people that are often taught to us as immortal as regular people. As we all return back home, I hope that we continue to think about the roles we, as everyday people, have in ending oppression. We had the opportunity to meet a wide variety of people, who were able to find many different ways to serve their community, from becoming a Civil Rights Attorney to fighting food insecurity. There are so many ways in which we can work to better the world around us and I hope that we all take strides to do so as we go back to our communities.