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New Civil Rights museums prepare to open

The struggle for civil rights has been an important part of American history for centuries, and there are several entities dedicated to exploring and sharing the many stories behind it.

In recent years, the fight for equality has gained much broader international awareness and appeal, now coming to the forefront with the opening of several new museums.

Toward the end of the international slave trade between 1803 and 1807, the population in Charleston, South Carolina, was only 20,000. Yet more than 70,000 Africans were taken and sold there as slaves. This is just the beginning of the story to be presented at the International African-American Museum.

The $75 million museum will be situated at the former Gadsden’s Wharf, just a stone’s throw from where city officials say 80 percent of African-Americans residing in the United States today can trace at least one ancestor.

Innovative interactive displays, changing exhibits and more will impart the history of slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction and the Jim Crow era, and the civil rights movement to the present day, together making a lasting impact on the racial, cultural, educational, economic and political landscape of our country.

Construction is expected to begin in late 2015, and the opening is planned for 2018.

In May, Atlanta will celebrate the opening of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights.

Located downtown, the center is designed to “commemorate the historic struggle for African-American freedom and equality, and serve as a space for ongoing dialogue, study, and contributions to the resolution of current and future freedom struggles of all people at the local, national and international level,” according to its website.

This $75 million project is expected to draw 400,000 annual visitors. The experience there encompasses a wealth of interactive exhibits and gallery spaces that feature audiovisual elements, artifacts and storytelling. The museum will be the only public place in the world to display the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection (the King Papers).

As the world’s largest museum and research complex, Washington, D.C.’s Smithsonian Institution is apropos as the home of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Expected to open in 2015, the museum will be the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African-American life, culture, history and art. Until then, visitors can experience a taste of what the museum will offer at the National Museum of American History, including through the exhibit “Changing America: The Emancipation Proclamation, 1863, and the March on Washington, 1963.”

Although the museum will document the vast and rich diversity of African-Americans, it will also serve as a global institution for discussion, reconciliation and healing.

A unique dual entity, set to open in the fall of 2017, is under development in Jackson, Mississippi.

Billed as the nation’s first state-operated civil rights museum, the state-of-the-art Mississippi Civil Rights Museum will highlight the many facets of the struggle for equality from slavery to the present day that changed the trajectory of the history of the state and the nation.