(WMC-TV) - With a red robed choir singing and swaying, speakers at the grand opening of the National Civil Rights Museum summoned memories of so many who suffered for so long in America's march to Civil Rights.
TV star Blair Underwood served as Master of Ceremonies, inviting on luminary after another to the microphone.
"When I told a friend that I was returning home for the dedication of the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, she said it's a great thing, but why have it at the Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was assassinated?" explained actress Cybill Shepherd. "I told her it was because Memphis has acknowledged the stain on her past and now honors all those who strive for truth justice and tolerance. We must never forget. We must never give up the fight."
The superstar of that day was Rosa Parks, the woman who refused to move to the back of a Birmingham city bus on December 1, 1955. Ms. Parks' arrest sparked the Birmingham bus boycott, bringing the Civil Rights movement to life.
The history Rosa Parks personified was carefully illustrated inside the museum. On its inaugural day, Rosa Parks recalled coming to Memphis for the 1968 memorial march after Dr. King laid down his life.
"I could not even think about coming to this site. I didn't want to see the place where he lost his life," said Rosa Parks. "But today I'm proud to be here and to be a part of the opening of this museum."
A victorious D'Army Bailey, the lawyer who saved the Lorraine Motel from destruction and helped government awaken to its historic value, gave a passionate speech about the people who changed the world.
"Americans need the National Civil Rights Museum so the world will know ordinary people can make a difference, that seemingly hopeless fights aren't hopeless after all," said Bailey.
Surviving 1968, sanitation workers became stars on the museum's original opening day, posing for pictures in front of history they helped create. It was a bittersweet day, complete with memories of a bloody struggle, but it was full of hope that the new museum would serve as a teacher for generations to come.
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