The National Civil Rights Museum Celebrates 30-Year Milestone

Museum observes milestone with community celebration, exhibition and Freedom Award hybrid event

Memphis, TN, July 28, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Thirty years ago, the National Civil Rights Museum became the first museum of its kind to chronicle the American civil rights history in America when it opened to the public July 4, 1991.  The museum will celebrate the landmark year with a special Freedom Award event, a community celebration and an exhibition in which the public can participate. The 30th anniversary occasion continues the tradition of telling the story of everyday people who helped to make this nation great and highlights those whose stories are intertwined with the museum’s existence.

This year marks the 30th celebration of the Freedom Award, a ceremony that honors individuals who have made significant contributions to civil and human rights in America and abroad.  The Freedom Award is on October 14 and will feature a hybrid format with the live show and audience on site and virtual attendees engaging globally.  Since 1991 the museum has honored 96 individuals or organizations. Due to the pandemic, last year’s virtual Freedom Award was the first time the museum did not present honorees. This year’s honorees will be announced in the coming weeks.

On September 25, the museum will host its 30th Anniversary Community Celebration as way to recommit and again thank the community. In the 1980s, it was a community of people that birthed the idea of a museum through a fundraising campaign launched by the Lorraine Civil Rights Foundation (formerly the Martin Luther King Memorial Foundation).  The museum would not exist without the support of Memphians who fought to save the Lorraine Motel and turned the sacred place into a world renown museum.  To make this celebration even more special, admission is free on September 25, thanks to FedEx.

The museum has seen tremendous growth since 1991 with key milestones in its institutional history.  In 2002 it acquired the infamous boarding house to expand its exhibitions including the state’s prosecutorial evidence against James Earl Ray who was convicted as King’s assassin. The National Civil Rights Museum completed a $28 million renovation of its Lorraine exhibits in 2014 with interactives and enhancements that create a more powerful, transformative experience to immerse its visitors. In 2008 and 2018, the museum hosted thousands of visitors for the 40th and 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination during which it was the epicenter for the global commemoration. Through its programs and events, it continues to position King’s perpetual question, “Where do we go from here?”   

Today, the museum’s exhibitions include stories of not only famous civil rights heroes, but it also highlights the everyday men, women and children who made the Movement possible.  The museum invites the public to share their stories connected to the museum’s transformation from a site of tragedy to one of triumph, through all its growth periods as a site of conscience and a safe space for difficult dialogue. Through this year, the museum will share a social media campaign on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter for visitors, leaders, former employees and stakeholders to submit photos or video posts with their favorite museum memory using the hashtag #MyNCRMStory. Submissions are also accepted at the museum’s website.

The museum will also highlight its transformations in a 30th Anniversary exhibition opening this fall.  The public is invited to donate or loan photos, artifacts, news clippings, documents, textiles or other items that feature key people and events in the museum’s life. The museum’s collection department is accepting donation inquiries via its website until August 15.

For more information about museum’s community celebration and the 30th anniversary exhibition submissions, visit Information about the Freedom Award can also be found at


About the National Civil Rights Museum

The NATIONAL CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM, located at the historic Lorraine Motel where civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, gives a comprehensive overview of the American Civil Rights Movement from slavery to the present. Since the Museum opened in 1991, millions of visitors from around the world have come, including more than 90,000 student visits annually. The Museum is steadfast in its mission to chronicle the American civil rights movement and tell the story of the ongoing struggle for human rights.  It educates and serves as a catalyst to inspire action to create positive social change.

A Smithsonian Affiliate and an internationally acclaimed cultural institution, the Museum is recognized as a 2019 National Medal Award recipient by the Institute of Museums and Library Services (IMLS), the top national honor for museums and libraries.  It is a TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Top 5% U.S. Museum, USA Today's Top 10 Best American Iconic Attractions; Top 10 Best Historical Spots in the U.S. by TLC's Family Travel; Must See by the Age of 15 by Budget Travel and Kids; Top 10, American Treasures by USA Today; and Best Memphis Attraction by The Commercial Appeal and the Memphis Business Journal.