MLK Jr.'s jail cell in small Ala. town to be a museum

    1:53 PM, Sep 5, 2013   |    comments
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    UNDATED (CNN) -- Dr. Martin Luther King Junior spent one night in a Bessemer, Alabama jail cell for disturbing the peace in 1967.

    Now the city hopes that their small part in history could be a big draw for tourists who are interested in the civil rights movement.

    Two cells housed dr. Martin Luther King Jr, his brother A.D. King, Wyatt Walker and Ralph Abernathy. Jefferson County Commissioner Sandra Brown Little said, "Brings tears to my eyes. I was eight years old in 1963. In 1964, 1966, 1967 when injustice was prevalent in this area."

    You can see the original docket book where king and the others signed in and there is also the official booking card.

    Sheriff Mike Hale had much of the documents and the jail doors preserved for history. He said, "We at the sheriff's office put a value on this docket book, we put a value, a historical value on the jail doors, and this cell. We just kinda sensed something in it."

    Sarah Beasely was a teacher in Bessemer in 1963. Beasley hopes school children will be able to see the exhibit and to learn from the dark times of segregation. She said, "And that they can see what somebody did for them, for their future. So they can have the freedom and all the many choices they can have in education and all walks of life."

    A nonprofit called Open Door to History hopes to raise at least $60,000 to build up the area on the fourth floor of the Bessemer Courthouse for visitors.

    The goal is to be ready and open by King's birthday January 15 of next year. Bessemer mayor Kenneth Gully believes it will be a tourist attraction for his town. He said, "Anytime you can have an exhibit or a museum of this nature that's historical of Doctor King himself being here. We just anticipate this being a real, real good draw to downtown Bessemer."

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