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As its name suggests, the Center for Civil and Human Rights, which opens to the public on Monday, is about two struggles—the American one that was fought primarily in the South in the latter half of the twentieth century, and the worldwide one that involves oppressed peoples in distant (and not-so-distant) lands. While there’s an obvious thematic linkage between the American Civil Rights Movement and the broader human rights one, the line between them must have been a challenge for the Center’s designers to straddle. One has a built-in narrative, with a beginning and middle (if not yet an ending), and the other requires navigating the vast space beneath the human rights umbrella, whether it’s oppressed women in Africa, child laborers in Pakistan, or tortured activists in Burma.
John Lewis and Julian Bond. Two men whose lives were shaped in the crucible of the civil rights movement, whose beings were transformed by the soaring energy and ringing eloquence of the man who came to symbolize that movement, Martin Luther King Jr., and whose major roles have been played out in the cold vacuum of his absence.