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Inside Atlanta’s new National Center for Civil & Human Rights

the National Center for Civil & Human Rights
the National Center for Civil & Human Rights
Karon Leslie

When people think of Atlanta history they typically think of Coca-Cola and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. For tourists looking to explore—there’s the World of Coca-Cola, and an entire district dedicated to Dr. King. But, Atlanta is not just the birthplace of civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It’s the central organizing hub for the entire Civil Rights Movement.

Not many Atlantans (Generations X and Y) know about the lunch counter sit-ins at Rich’s Department store downtown or that Atlanta was the only southern city with a reputation of being “too busy to hate.” With the opening of the National Center for Civil & Human Rights, nearly 50 years after the movement—Atlanta residents and tourists alike can learn all that and more.

Located in downtown Atlanta right next door to The World of Coca-Cola, the National Center for Civil & Human Rights is an absolute must visit. It is a beautiful structure with pristine waterfalls out front.

The waterfalls stream against a glass placard that reads, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change.” The visually appealing exterior is a friendly welcome for visitors—preparing them for the interior, which is sure to blow them away.

This three-floor museum is filled with numerous exhibits that are not only informative, but also interactive. This interactive feature sets the National Center for Civil & Human Rights apart from so many other museums. Visitors have the opportunity to engage with human rights activists by standing face to face with their digital images, and to listen to individual accounts of each Freedom Rider involved in the Civil Rights Movement.

While there are quite few exhibits on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.—the National Center for Civil & Human Rights also pays tribute to the unsung heroes of the movement who dedicated their lives to freedom and equality, but never made their way into our history books. Not only that, visitors will get a full understanding of Atlanta’s role in a movement that impacted the lives of an entire nation.

Since its grand opening in June, the National Center for Civil & Human Rights has been rather crowded, but with kids returning to school—it would be a great place to explore during the week or if not—it’s still an excellent outing for families on the weekend. Visitors should plan to spend at least 90 minutes in the museum to get through all the exhibits.

Admission is $15 for adults and $10 for children. There are discounts available for students and seniors, and if the discounts to get you excited you should know that cameras are also allowed inside. If you’re a tourist or a full- fledged “ATLien,” I strongly suggest paying this museum a visit. It may have taken 50 years to come to fruition, but is something the city of Atlanta should be proud of.