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Civil Conversations: Day 8, The Leader’s Last Hours

Students+had+the+opportunity+to+tour+the+National+Civil+Rights+Museum+on+Saturday%2C+March+24%2C+the+final+day+of+the+University+of+Wisconsin-Eau+Claire%27s+10th+annual++Civil+Rights+Pilgrimage.+Room+306+was+the+site+of+Martin+Luther+King+Jr.%27s+assassination+on+April+4%2C+1968.+%C2%A9+2018+Taylor+Pomasl
Students had the opportunity to tour the National Civil Rights Museum on Saturday, March 24, the final day of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's 10th annual  Civil Rights Pilgrimage. Room 306 was the site of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination on April 4, 1968. © 2018 Taylor Pomasl

Students had the opportunity to tour the National Civil Rights Museum on Saturday, March 24, the final day of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's 10th annual Civil Rights Pilgrimage. Room 306 was the site of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination on April 4, 1968. © 2018 Taylor Pomasl

Students had the opportunity to tour the National Civil Rights Museum on Saturday, March 24, the final day of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's 10th annual Civil Rights Pilgrimage. Room 306 was the site of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination on April 4, 1968. © 2018 Taylor Pomasl

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Memphis, Tennessee, was the location of a tremendous tragedy for the Civil Rights Movement and the nation after it became the site for its leader’s last hours.

On the final day of the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire’s 10th annual Civil Rights Pilgrimage, more than 100 participants visited the site of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death at the Lorraine Motel, which is now the National Civil Rights Museum.

On April 4, 1968, King was shot outside of his room 306, which sits at the center of the museum’s walls of history in text and photos. From across Mulberry Street in a boardinghouse, James Earl Ray shot the single bullet that struck the movement’s leader in the neck.

After King’s assassination, the Lorraine Motel fell into a steady decline and foreclosed in 1982. With the help of donations, the motel opened again as the National Civil Rights Museum in 1991.

The museum’s second building focuses on the legacy of the movement and details of the case for King’s killer. Investigators discovered that a man named James Earl Ray fired the single shot from the bathroom window of room 5B of a boardinghouse located across Mulberry Street.

Ashanti and Kychia Neal of Conway, Arkansas, examine one of the interactive exhibits at the National Civil Rights Museum. The motel reopened as a museum in 1991. © 2018 Taylor Pomasl

Students could dig into the museum’s conspiracy theory exhibit where they could consider unanswered questions from the investigation of King’s death, such as “Did Ray have help?” and “Did someone else do it?” The wall exhibits detailed the process law enforcement took to bring King’s killer to justice.

Elecia Oleson, a first grade teacher at Sherman Elementary in the Eau Claire School District, found the trip’s last stop moving.

“It’s the culmination of the trip – all the states we’ve seen,” Oleson said. “It’s all so important.”

As the students finished their final exhibits and boarded the buses for Eau Claire, Oleson expressed how the final stop on the Civil Rights Pilgrimage helped her see the importance of the movement’s leader.

“I think this spot is important, because it shows what an important leader he was to the community and United States as a nation,” she said. “It’s so important we honor this location as a memorial.”

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Civil Conversations: Day 8, The Leader’s Last Hours