Potential of Atlanta’s Center for Civil and Human Rights finally being realized

February 8,2021

Maria Saporta, Saporta Report 

At long last, Atlanta’s National Center for Civil and Human Rights will become the institution leaders originally envisioned it would be.

The Center is launching a $50 million capital campaign to expand the facility by at least 20,000 square feet by building the two wings that the late Phil Freelon had originally designed.

The campaign received a tremendous boost when the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation announced a $17 million grant to build the West Wing of the Center. That brings the total of what has been raised during “the quiet phase” to $25 million. The total campaign will include the building of the East Wing as well as a number of amenities and programs that will extend the reach of the Center far beyond Atlanta.

But let’s not forget, the expansion will bring us back to the original vision for the Center.

“We started talking about the next phase shortly after we opened,” said former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin, chair of the Center’s board. “Phil Freelon knew about it. We have known we needed to an expansion from the earliest days. We had to cut back the museum so we would open with little debt, so the debt wouldn’t consume us.”

A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress, championed the idea of the Center 15 years ago and helped nurture the project through several hurdles, including the 2008 recession that forced designers to scale back the original plans.

“A couple of years back, we decided we were going to return to the model and really look at adding the two wings that we had planned in the beginning and didn’t build because of the recession,” Robinson said. “We will now have enough space to do a lot more education; be a destination for children; have a space for temporary exhibitions; expand and enhance the space for Martin Luther King Jr.’s papers and also recalibrate the existing exhibit space with new technology and ideas.”

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