9 April 2017
With another Walmart parking lot in the rear view it was off to the other music city of the state. Initially light traffic along the I72 made for a nice morning drive which became more hectic approaching Mississippi. The goal was the aptly named Tom Sawyers RV Park for one night. At the spot where the GPS had indicated I saw only a padlocked gate and a dilapidated x-RV park. The 2017 RV Travel and Savings Guide I had relied on clearly needed an update as this place had not been in business for years to which the weeds and cracked asphalt was my witness. The equally run down surroundings were clearly unsafe and definitively on the wrong side of town for me as a white male. In fact so far off as not even being in the right state as West Memphis is in Arkansas. It gave me the blues but after having survived the perils of country a change of plan was required.
The change of plan included a murder resulting in a museum. It was one of the blackest days in modern US history, almost on the day forty-nine years ago; Martin Luther King had walked out of room 306 on to the first floor landing at the Lorraine Motel.
Across the street in the bathroom of a run-down boardinghouse James Earl Ray aimed a Remington 706 rifle and fired one round. The single bullet silenced MLK a powerful voice for equality. The spot where he fell was marked with a large red ribbon white reef. The motel’s neon sign, façade, two era typical white cars and room 306 are still there.
Behind the façade, the National Civil Rights museum which tells of the African American struggle for equality in the US. Stories of bus bombings, Selma, Rosa Parks, labor rallies and refusal to be served at restaurants are educating the on the day mostly white audience of the hardships they never endured.
Across the street the timeline of James Earl Ray’s life as a robber leading up to the fatal shot. The Remington with the scope and the reconstructed bathroom leaves an eerie feeling fueled by the accounts of conspiracy theories on display.
an excerpt from the forthcoming book
- a road trip from sea to shining sea in Trumps America
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