National Center for Civil and Human Rights Opens in Atlanta

Edward Rothstein, The New York Times
June 22, 2014 

Atlanta — It isn’t that great a distance from the birthplace of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Auburn Avenue here to the $68 million, 42,000 square-foot National Center for Civil and Human Rights that is opening on Monday near Centennial Olympic Park. The two sites, though, seem as if they’ve emerged not just from different time periods, but from different and incompatible universes.

In the first universe, into which Dr. King was born, there were Jim Crow laws like this Georgia statute: “The marriage of a white person with a Negro or Mulatto or a person who shall have one eighth or more of Negro blood, shall be unlawful and void.” Or this one: “It shall be unlawful for any amateur White baseball team to play baseball on any vacant lot within two blocks of a playground devoted to the Negro race.”

In the other universe — our own — is this new museum whose main exhibition recalls those Jim Crow laws but whose very presence shows how much has changed. It has been built alongside the main tourist attractions of Atlanta’s downtown on land donated by the Coca-Cola Company, which runs the nearby World of Coca-Cola museum. Across a plaza is the immense Georgia Aquarium which has become an international destination. And across the park is the Inside CNN studio tour.

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