Water Leak Delays Planned Opening
Of Greensboro Civil Rights Museum
A water leak will probably delay the opening of a planned civil rights museum by at least three or four months and add up to $200,000 to the cost, organizers says.
The $10 million International Civil Rights Center and Museum in downtown Greensboro had been on schedule before workers found the leak in the building that housed the former Woolworth’s department store. Four freshmen at North Carolina A&T State University staged a lunch counter sit-in at the store in 1960 in what is considered a pivotal point in the civil rights struggle.
“As the construction piece moved ahead, we started uncovering a range of water challenges, not unlike other buildings downtown … but we have a unique responsibility,” said Amelia Parker, the museum’s executive director.
“We cannot put priceless artifacts in an environment where we can’t control the humidity and aeration.”
The news came as Parker and her staff worked to secure such artifacts as part of a stained glass window from the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala., where four children were killed in a racially motivated bombing in 1963; the wooden chair the Rev. Martin Luther King sat on in a courtroom as he was being arraigned in Birmingham; and a letter written by Booker T. Washington.
The money to finish construction has been pledged, although $2 million needs to be raised for exhibits and operating expenses.
The money to repair the leakage and its damage also must be raised.
Seeping water left damaged slabs of concrete in a corner of the planned museum, which was to open Feb. 1, 2005, exactly 45 years after the sit-in started.
The effort led to similar protests across the country.
“It’s a nice date but we’ve got to take care of the water problem,” said Skip Alston, a board member of the Sit-In Movement Inc., which brought the building from the department store when it closed. “If we don’t take care of it now, this ‘small thing’ can be devastating 10 to 15 years down the road. There’s the potential for mold … and us having to (later) shut down and take everything out to deal with a much larger problem.”
The museum has been envisioned as a place where college professors can teach African American history courses, international peace activists can visit with community leaders, and the story of the civil rights movement can be told in a way that both children and scholars can appreciate.
The museum has applied to become part of the Smithsonian Institution’s Affiliations Program, which would allow them to borrow objects from the Institution’s collections.
The new target date for opening the museum is about July 25, the date when the lunch counter began serving Black people.
— Associated Press
© Copyright 2005 by DiverseEducation.com