State OKs new lease for rights museum foundation - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

State OKs new lease for rights museum foundation

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - A private foundation can continue running the museum on the site of Martin Luther King Jr.'s murder but must put more black members to its board of directors and open its management to wider public inspection, the State Building Commission said Tuesday.

The commission approved a 15-year lease on the National Civil Rights Museum, with a possible option for a 15-year extension.

The approval followed complaints by museum critics that the foundation's board had too few black members and too many with close ties to big business.

The lease includes a "memorandum of understanding" under which the foundation's board promised to meet with critics and other private citizens to discuss museum operations and programs.

The agreement also directs the museum's 32-member board to adjust its membership, which is now 50 percent black, so that 60 percent of its members are black. The board must also include at least one state lawmaker, a representative of organized labor, a civil rights historian and a civil rights activist.

The new lease requires annual financial audits and closer supervision of the Memphis museum by the Tennessee State Museum.

With a few changes, the lease followed a tentative agreement announced Friday with the Lorraine Civil Rights Museum Foundation, a private nonprofit group that has run the museum since it opened in 1991. 

The foundation's current lease expires at the end of the year.

The museum is built around the old Lorraine Motel where King was shot by an assassin in 1968.

Some 200,000 people a year visit the museum which chronicles the struggle for civil rights in America with much of the focus on the movement led by King in the 1950s and 1960s.

Local and state government spent $10 million to build the museum, and the state owns the former motel, which houses the main exhibits. The foundation has doubled the size of the museum, largely through private donations.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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