MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Motorcycle club members, young history students and artists were among the thousands who visited the National Civil Rights Museum on Monday to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Visitors from as far as California and Europe came to the museum, which typically has large King Day celebrations but had limited space this year because of renovations to the main building. The museum is built on the site of the old Lorraine Motel, where King was assassinated April 4, 1968.
Still, people waited in line to enter another museum building that houses several exhibits, including the new "Freedom Sisters" exhibition honoring the contributions made by 20 African-American women to the civil rights movement.
About 35 people, including members of a civil rights tour from California, watched the inauguration of President Barack Obama in a small room next to the new exhibit. Other events included food and blood donation drives, dramatic performances, and children's arts and crafts.
Samuel Crout rode to the museum with two fellow members of the Buffalo Soldiers motorcycle club, who wore leather jackets and ski hats to protect themselves from the chilly weather. Crout was among about 100 bikers who came to the museum wearing jackets bearing names such as Unified Riders, United Travelers MC, and the Hawks.
Crout, 52, said he came to show his support for the legacy of King, who had come to Memphis in 1968 to support a sanitation workers' strike.
"The man, he came down here, and he died for people's rights, for everybody," said Crout, nicknamed "Soldier Boy. "We want to honor that. We want to keep the dream going on."
Among those who watched the inauguration was 16-year-old Natalie Hawkins, who was on the civil rights tour. Hawkins, of Los Angeles, said President Obama was able to include people from all walks of life in his speech.
"He brought along a lot of the same ideals that Martin Luther King talked about," she said.
The museum is just blocks from the FedExForum, where the Memphis Grizzlies were playing the Indiana Pacers in the NBA's annual Martin Luther King. Jr. Day game. A parade also made its way through downtown Memphis late Monday morning.
At the museum, artist Walter Andrade walked around with a black-and-white picture he drew of the faces of Obama, King and Malcolm X. Andrade said he drew the picture before Obama was elected in 2008 and called it "Great Expectations."
It shows Obama in the foreground, with King and Malcolm X looking at him in the background.
"Two of the leaders behind (Obama) are pinnacles of the civil rights movement," Andrade said. "It's like Dr. King and Malcolm X are looking at Obama and telling him, 'Don't mess this up.'"