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Friday, Feb. 23
The Indiana Daily Student

Chapter 5: Lorraine's Legacy

It was only March, but it was already hot in Memphis, Tenn. The air conditioner was roaring as the sun smashed through our thick curtain and penetrated two riverfront hotel rooms.\nIt looked a lot like the day Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot. From the photos, April 4, 1968, seemed picture-perfect. It turned out anything but.\nImagine a Memphis summer.\nBetter yet, imagine that summer.\nGrass scorched grey, sidewalks sizzling, drops of sweat falling like a rainstorm. It must have hurt to breathe.\nEven in March, 35 years later, for eight middle-class white students who've never known struggle, it was hard to swallow.\nThe National Civil Rights Museum sits a half mile from the busy and beautiful downtown of Memphis. It's built into the Lorraine Motel, where King was shot exiting his hotel room on his way to dinner.\nNow it's a monument to his life.\nEight IU spring breakers wandered up and down the museum's countless exhibits, reliving a piece of history they wanted no part in. Visitors walk through a bus and face the shouts and insults that Rosa Parks did in 1955. They can also simulate the experience of an African-American at a polling place, where a spin of a wheel gives visitors a five percent chance of voting. The other panels create excuses, which are ludicrous today, that prevent visitors from casting a ballot.\nMixed in are conversations between blacks and whites, southerners and northerners.\nAt an exhibit documenting African-American sit-ins of white-only diners, a white southerner talks in the background before the video shows violence erupting.\n"They looked like a bunch of idiots sitting in those stools," the white young adult said. "They were egging on a fight."\nBeing Jewish, Amy, Stacey and Jamie knew the destruction persecution brings. All three have a direct link to the atrocities their ancestors suffered during the second World War.\nThey were most intrigued by the museum, taking a free listening tour as they slowly zig-zagged through the exhibits. Jamie, an education major who's teaching fourth graders in Bloomington for her final semester, seemed particularly interested, reading each panel thoroughly.\nThe men, myself included, moved through the museum quicker, and finished the first exhibition hall, which includes a tour of King's room in the motel, more than 15 minutes before the women. But we were no less affected.\nIt was a depressing but necessary interlude on a sun-filled spring break, which exemplified a form of life we never knew.\nIt was hot for Memphis in March.\nLike those sad, scorching months in 1968.\nRead Chapter 6, It's Bessie, tomorrow.

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