Black Experience

Trump’s Government Shutdown Closes MLK Historic Sites

Tuesday was Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and next Monday is our national celebration of the civil rights icon.

But school field trips, celebrations, families’ visits to teach children about civil rights and the values of all people being created equally are being canceled due to President Trump’s government shutdown.

Thousands of people who flock to Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Martin Luther King Jr. was pastor, and to his home, as well as the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in D.C., will be disappointed. They are all closed.

Bernice King, MLK’s youngest child and CEO of the King Center, was brought to tears.

“I feel a little bit of sadness because our main partner in this area, in this district, is the National Park Service … and they are not here with us today. I didn’t expect to cry over this,” she said.

Of the furloughed workers, she said: “They are part of our family. Their struggle right now is our struggle.”

Freedom Hall, which is privately owned, remained open Saturday for visitors to take in exhibits about Rosa Parks, Gandhi and King and his wife, Coretta.

The partial government shutdown has also closed several Alabama sites such as the Selma-to-Montgomery March interpretive centers in Selma and White Hall, the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site and Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site.

Historic sites in Montgomery, such as the Equal Justice Initiative’s National Memorial for Peace and Justice and the Civil Rights Memorial Center will be open for the holiday.

Last year, Trump claimed to support the historic park, signing into law a bill to expand King’s birthplace in Atlanta to “ensure that the beautiful historic park continues to tell Dr. King’s story for generations to come.”

And Steve Bannon said King would be proud of Trump: “If you look at the policies of Donald Trump, anybody — Martin Luther King — would be proud of him, what he’s done for the black and Hispanic community for jobs. It’s the lowest unemployment in recorded history. You don’t think Martin Luther King would be proud?”

Bernice King’s response echoed the concerns of many about Trump’s actions toward people of color:

Trump’s push for the border wall and depiction of immigrants of color as criminals and rapists flies in the face of Dr. King’s dream. This shutdown, which has caused the very places that stand for equality, civil rights, and centers of pride for Black Americans, and all Americans who understand the value and appreciate the sacrifices, demonstrates Trump’s continued perpetuation of divisiveness.

Visitors still wandered the National Park grounds taking photos of King’s memorial, and Bernice King’s organization is still hosting events this week leading up to MLK Day. But many are disappointed about what appears to be a sign of the times.

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