Andrew Young, former congressman and U.N. ambassador, takes part in the "Heroes of the Civil Rights Movement" panel during the Civil Rights Summit on April 9 in Austin. / Jack Plunkett, AP
ATLANTA ‚?? This city is rich in the history of the civil rights movement.
One thing I love about my house in the historic West End is that I can drive from Interstate 285 and travel on streets named for giants of the movement: Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard and Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard.
King was born in Atlanta. Abernathy died here in 1990. Lowery lives here. Their wives, Coretta Scott King, Juanita Abernathy and Evelyn Lowery, all played prominent roles in the movement.
Julian Bond and John Lewis have deep Atlanta connections, as does C.T. Vivian, who received a Presidential Medal of Freedom in November. Hosea Williams died here in 2000. The airport bears the name of Maynard Jackson, first black mayor of a major Southern city.
And on and on.
Yet until now, Atlanta had no civil rights museum. That changes Monday when the National Center for Civil and Human Rights opens downtown.
I wondered about the omission. So I sat down with another Atlanta giant of the movement, Andrew Young. He was one of King's top aides and was with him in Memphis when he was assassinated in 1968.
"We haven't had a civil rights museum before because I see a museum as celebrating history, and most of us still wanted to make history," he said. "I was not excited about a museum until I began to realize that the museum was not a celebration of a past. It was an attempt to share lessons with the future."
Then it made sense. Atlanta, "the Black Mecca," is a magnet for African-American strivers because of the possibilities offered by its thriving black middle class. It owes much of its success to the gains of the civil rights movement.
Yet for those who shaped the racial transformation of the city and the nation, the movement wasn't just something they did. It's who they are. They left home in their teens or early 20s, often against the express wishes of their parents, and put themselves in harm's way to hold the nation accountable. A fundamental sense of fairness and justice has to be part of your core for you to do that, and it's not something from which you retire.
Lewis, who was beaten senseless on "Bloody Sunday" in Selma, Ala., in 1965, is a U.S. congressman. Bond led the NAACP for more than a decade and is a valued voice on human rights. Williams led dozens of protests against police brutality, and his group feeds thousands of homeless people every year.
Young went on to be a U.S. congressman, first black U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and Atlanta mayor. He landed the 1996 Summer Olympics and helped Atlanta become an international city. Fittingly, Andrew Young International Boulevard is in the heart of the downtown commercial district.
He leads the Andrew Young Foundation, which seeks global strategies for fighting poverty and spreading international understanding about America's non-violent revolution. He's 82, and he moves more slowly, like a lion in winter.
I have a photograph of him and Lowery sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in an Atlanta courtroom in April. It was a hearing on whether to proceed with the trial of the city's former schools superintendent, Beverly Hall, accused of masterminding massive teacher cheating but gravely ill with breast cancer.
Young interrupted the proceedings to ask for mercy for Hall. He said the city had been through enough. The trial was delayed until August.
Winter lions, perhaps, but still roaring. Still too busy making history to celebrate it.
Read the original story: Voices: Atlanta finally gets civil rights museum