Critics argue National Civil Rights Museum to closely tied to big business - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Nick Kenney

Critics argue National Civil Rights Museum to closely tied to big business

Martin Luther King III is joining critics who argue that the governing board of the National Civil Rights Museum, on the site of his father's death, is too closely tied to big business, a spokesman said Tuesday.
King is scheduled to take part in a rally staged by museum critics on Dec. 8 in Memphis, said Isaac Farris, director of the Martin Luther King Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta.

The Memphis museum is built around the old Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot by an assassin in 1968. The museum is run by the Lorraine Civil Rights Museum Foundation, a private group with a state management lease that is up for review.

The foundation wants a 40-year lease, while critics say the museum should come under more direct public management.

Such a long-term lease "would be almost tantamount to owning the facility," Farris said from his office in Atlanta.

"We just have a concern about that," Farris said. "(The museum) is certainly dear to us, and we want to make sure that it's not only maintained properly but also that the proper programming is happening there."

The December rally was announced by D'Army Bailey, a Memphis judge and leader of a citizens' group called the Lorraine Civil Rights Museum Community Oversight Committee.

The group says the museum board should be at least two-thirds black, while its membership is now 50 percent white, and too many of its members represent corporate America.

"This board has never gone to the city council or to the state or to the county government and asked for any operating funds," Bailey said. "Instead, it has chosen to make this board and this facility completely dependent on their corporate illemosinary instincts, which also means their control."

Lorraine Civil Right Museum President Beverly Robertson argued the board does not control day-to-day operations.

"This board has been so prudent and so supportive, and they have lent their resources, and they haven't dictated the kinds of programs or processes or systems that we need to put in place," she said

Furthermore, Robertson said, the board does seek government help.

"We have asked and we have explored opportunities for funding at all levels and we sill continue to do that," she said. "We would not be fulfilling our responsibilities if we did not."

Among participants scheduled to attend the rally, Bailey said, are the Rev. Al Sharpton; Charles Steele, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and the Rev. C.T. Vivian of Nashville, a pioneer of the civil rights movement.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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