Actually, I didn't, personally, because none of that was happening in Kansas City in the 60's, that I knew of. Schools were already segregated there. (When Dr. King was shot, though, all hell broke loose in Kansas City.) It was on the news every single night. I was horrified at the way people treated others just because of the color of their skin. I saw lovely, every-hair-in-place ladies spitting on children being escorted into newly integrated schools. I was living alone in my first apartment on eleventh street in Kansas City at the time. I watched Walter Cronkite every single night. I remember wishing I had the nerve to go south and march with those people, like many college students were doing. However, when those students started being killed, I knew I wouldn't have gone, even if I'd had the resources.
First of all, I need to tell you that until we moved to Kansas City, I seldom saw anyone of color. But my parents seemed anything but racist in my book. They never said anything negative about "colored people" the term polite folks used at the time. We were still in the small, north Missouri town of Eagleville when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus. About the only black people I saw in the 40's and '50's were in the movies; they often played comical-but-lovable parts, acting scared of the dark and so forth, sort of like Buckwheat in the original "Little Rascals". If they played serious parts, they were usually cast as servants. Mother and I would go to a movie once in awhile, and I guess there must have been a black baby or toddler in one of them, because the next Christmas... or perhaps my birthday... I wanted a black baby doll. I thought black babies were cuter than white ones. I do remember using the "N word" when I asked for that doll, though, so I suppose my parents used the word too. It was rural Iowa. Everybody was white there and I certainly didn't realize it was a negative word. My mom got me the doll, though.
Anyhow, Cliff thought we had nothing new to learn about civil rights. In a way, he was right. We've watched a lot of PBS documentaries about those times: the stories would break your heart. But Cliff said we made this whole trip because I wanted to, so we went.
Here's a little something I'll share: We stopped to watch a short video about civil rights in a mini-theater inside the museum. One thing mentioned therein was an experiment done in the 40's where you put two baby dolls in front of black children, a black doll and a white doll. Then you'd ask questions like, "Which one is the smart doll?" or "Which is the prettiest?"; most of the time, the black child would choose the white doll. There's a ten-minute video on Youtube HERE showing how it went. You don't have to watch over a minute of it to see how that went down.
That's sad, but here's a little thing that happened when it was over: As we were leaving, a black dad with his little boy beside him stopped at a glass case on the way out that had a black doll and a while doll displayed, side by side. The man asked his child which doll he liked best. The kid chose the black doll. The dad asked another similar question... the boy, about five years old, still chose the black doll. So at least in that family, there has been some progress.
The little girl pictured above is that little boy's sister, I believe. I'm not sure what that book is, but it was something about the video we were watching, I'm sure. She decided to stand up in front of us all and show us the book, turning a page at a time. Isn't she a cutie?
Cliff still says it was a waste of time for him, that he didn't learn anything new. For me, it was a good reminder. Besides, the world needs this museum for future generations who did NOT live through it.
I'm glad we went.