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Jacqueline Smith MLK Memorial Protester

I filmed this video of  Martin Luther King Jr. National Civil Rights museum protester Jacqueline Smith back in November 2010. A YouTube comment left one year ago (2014) said she is still in silent protest at her corner putting her at a record 26 years of protesting and counting! As you will see in the video, she keeps track of her protest count in a sign with the Years and Days. I would say that as long as her health allows it, she will continue protesting the "James Earl Ray" memorial.


To create a National Civil Rights museum for Dr. Martin Luther King, the Lorainne Motel was closed as a business and any permanent residents too .

The last resident of the motel, Jacqueline Smith, had resided there since 1973 as part of her work for the motel as a housekeeper. On March 2, 1988, when faced with eviction for the museum project, Jacqueline Smith barricaded herself in her room and had to be forcibly evicted, literally kicking and screaming.

Before the deputies arrived, Miss Smith talked to reporters and other spectators through an eight-foot chain link fence that was put up around the site on Jan. 11, 1988. ''My family is here and I have a home, but that's not what I want,'' she said referring to the closing for a museum. ''If I can't live at The Lorraine, I'll camp out on the sidewalk out front.''

Randy Wade, an administrative assistant for the Shelby County sheriff's office, said deputies used a tire iron to force open the door to Miss Smith's room.

Since 1988 she has exercised her right to peacefully protest and has done so in front of the museum. Her occupation of the sidewalk with her couch and blue tarps to battle the elements is older than the museum itself.

What she is protesting is the entire museum is no longer available as a service to the community, as MLK would have wished, but it is used a commercial enterprise to glorify the deed of James Earl Ray (if you look at it that way)

Brief History of the Area:
The neighborhood surrounding the Lorraine Motel had homes that rented for $175 a month. The homes were demolished and later replaced with more expensive apartments and condominiums, pricing them out of the range of the long time area residents.

On a more suggestive idea for the use of the millions of dollars spent on the National Civil Rights Museum, Jacqueline Smith stated that the Lorraine "should be put to better uses, such as housing, job training, free college, clinic, or other services for the poor, not gentrified with expensive condominiums that price the people out of their community."

Ms. Smith has maintained a vigil across the street from the Lorraine Motel for up to 21 hours per day for over 26 years, regardless of weather. She still holds vigil outside the Lorraine, although not as consistently as she has in the past.

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