By Ben Libov:
We kicked off today by visiting Graceland, Elvis’ home that he bought once he became famous. We took a tour of the mansion that took us through many rooms, including the famous jungle room and pool room, before taking us outside to see Elvis’ backyard, stable, and, eventually, where he lies today. We were each given headphones and an iPad that played narration explaining the importance of each room. It was fascinating to see the differences between this mansion and the little shotgun shack he grew up in in Tupelo, Mississippi, which we visited yesterday.
Then we had free time for lunch on Beale Street (the ribs were phenomenal), before going to the Lorraine Motel to see where Dr. King was killed. The building is now a civil rights museum, but instead of going in we spoke with a woman by the name of Jacqueline Smith. She has been sitting in protest outside the museum for almost 30 years. She was the last person forced out of the hotel when it was being converted to the museum and believes the building could commemorate Dr. King in a better way. She thinks he would have wanted it to be used to help the poor by being a homeless shelter or serve another function to benefit humanity. It was amazing to see the determination and passion she had to remain there for so long. It proves how important Dr. King and the civil rights movement was to the people in the south.
After the discussion, we crossed the Mississippi River and drove to Little Rock, Arkansas. There, we visited Central High School, where the Little Rock 9 were the first black students to attend the previously all-white school, causing a backlash in the community and drawing national attention. There, a ranger (it’s now a national historic site) told us the story of the first year of integration and we walked around the front of the school, seeing the exact place where history happened.
After some free time at the hotel, we had a discussion on abortion and the arguments surrounding the debate to prepare us for our meeting with the head of pro-life Texas tomorrow. The night ended by visiting the rock that Little Rock is named after.