Does the National Civil Rights Museum's MLK Jr. Merchandise Go Too Far?
The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis is commemorating the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s death this week with a wide selection of promotional merchandise, including some that take a somewhat literal approach to commemorating the civil rights leader's death in 1968.
Among the usual gift shop items like T-shirts, drinkware and magnets with Dr. King's face on them, there are items like a miniature Lorraine Motel door with the number 306 on it, representing where Dr. King was shot (which is also the site of the museum). Visitors can also get reprints of the original news article heralding Dr. King's death.
Additionally, the museum is selling items like winestoppers that say "MLK50" and bobbleheads.
If this sounds a bit irreverent for such a somber occasion, you're not alone.
Protests have been taking place outside of the museum, according to Commercial Appeal.
MLK50 merchandise: T-shirts, wine stoppers, shot glasses, a hat with the room number 306 https://t.co/RAHbKRUPo2
— Yirmeyahu (@Yirmeyahu15) March 30, 2018
One protester told Commercial Appeal that the money used to turn the motel into a museum could have been used to fight poverty in Memphis.
"It desecrates the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.," she said.
Faith Morris, chief marketing and external affairs officer for the National Civil Rights Museum, conceded that some of the merchandise is unorthodox, calling the practice of selling Martin Luther King Jr. merchandise is "sensitive work."
"Seeing Dr. King's face on a shirt means a whole lot to folks," Morris said. "It's a way of supporting him and his message. So, to have a young person want to have a quote close to them, I think that's a very good thing."
Dr. King's speeches and likeness have been used for other advertising ventures, like a Super Bowl commercial for Dodge. But the representatives from King's family gave their blessing, and said that the ad met the group's standards. There is a line, however that can be crossed.
Are caps and headwear with the hotel room No. 306 on it crossing that line? All parties involved seem to think not.