New Center for Civil and Human Rights Bridges Domestic and International Rights Movements
Atlanta – Human Rights First today welcomed the opening of the new Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, the only museum in the country that tells the story of the historic and contemporary human rights movement as a single narrative, highlighting America’s role in the global struggle for equality, dignity, and justice. Human Rights First is one of the Center’s five official partners and will join in today’s celebration ahead of tomorrow’s grand opening.
“It’s a quirk of our history as a nation that the civil rights and human rights struggles are perceived as distinct. But in fact, they are closely intertwined. Civil rights leaders in our country grounded their quest for equality and justice not only in our constitution but in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the post-WWII document known as ‘the Bill of Rights for All Mankind.’ And today, in every corner of the world, human rights activists find lessons and inspiration from the American civil rights movement,” said Human Rights First’s President and CEO Elisa Massimino, who is in Atlanta today for the opening. “Thanks to this beautiful and interactive new museum, visitors will have an opportunity to learn about these connections, about the role of the United States in the struggle for human dignity, and about what they can do as individuals to join in that struggle. Human Rights First is proud to be a partner in telling this important story and in the museum’s efforts to tackle tough ongoing human rights challenges, including human trafficking–a form of modern-day slavery–and the treatment of refugees who flee to America to seek safety from persecution.”
The 42,000 square-foot center houses several galleries, including “Voices to the Voiceless: The Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection,” “Spark of Conviction: The Global Human Rights Movement,” and “Rolls Down Like Water: The American Civil Rights Movement.” The Center for Civil and Human Rights was curated by Jill Savitt, a former staff member of Human Rights First who continues to work closely with the organization. Savitt is also special adviser at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Human Rights First contributed to the exhibit titled “Spark of Conviction: The Global Human Rights Movement,” housed in the 6,000 square-foot Human Rights Movement gallery on the top floor. The exhibit features a video spotlighting the problem of human trafficking narrated by Massimino, which seeks to build awareness about this form of modern-day slavery in which millions of people around the world, the majority of them women and children, are held captive and forced to work under the threat of violence. The exhibit also features life-size portraits of human rights defenders including Russian LGBT activist Anastasia Smirnova, Congolese defender Denis Mukwege (winner of Human Rights First’s 2013 Human Rights Award), and Sussan Tahmasebi of Iran. In the exhibit called “Who Like Me,” museum guests can look into an interactive mirror and, by choosing a word that describes them, hear the stories of an individual who has faced harassment, violence, or persecution due to that attribute in their home countries.
In addition to Human Rights First, the Center also features contributions from four other official partners – Amnesty International USA, Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, and Minority Rights Group International.