By Collin Kelley

The opening of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Downtown is still two years away, but fundraising, acquisitions and events for the public are in full swing right now.

The center will be located at Pemberton Place next door to the World of Coca-Cola (Coke donated the property) and the Georgia Aquarium. Highlights of the NCCHR will be the display of The Morehouse College Martin Luther King, Jr. Collection, the award-winning Without Sanctuary lynching exhibit and serve as a hub for ongoing dialogue, attracting world-renowned speakers and artists who work on a variety of human rights topics.

The space will also be equipped with broadcast and event space, and will host civil and human rights conversations among scholars, organizations and the public.

NCCHR Executive Director Doug Shipman said a groundbreaking will be held later this year, possibly in October, and the goal is to build without debt.

Delta Air Lines donation of $1 million and another $1 million from Newell Rubbermaid and UPS have made a considerable dent, but Shipman said another $13 million in commitments is needed.

“The cost for the center is $125 million, with $25 million of that as an endowment to support operations,” Shipman said.

While fundraising continues, Shipman said staff continues to refine exhibitions plan, while a researcher is looking for artifacts and photos for the NCCHR collection. Shipman said he was excited about oral histories that will be donated by West Georgia College and Atlanta History Center and author Rebecca Burns donation of information and documents from her book about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s funeral, Burial for a King.

For the public, there will be film screenings and educational events announced throughout the year at

In December, NCCHR announced that Atlanta native Deborah Richardson would become executive vice president and lead fundraising and program development.

Richardson said she “lived the experience” of the Civil Rights Movement in Atlanta and was excited to be returning home to work with the center.

Active in national efforts to foster inclusive philanthropy and combat human rights violations like child sexual exploitation, Richardson serves on the Executive Committee for the D5 Coalition, an initiative among funders to increase diversity and equity in philanthropy. In September, she testified before the House Judiciary Committee on domestic minor sex trafficking and has been instrumental in creating partnerships to end human trafficking on websites.

“The world is at an interesting moment in time,” Richardson said. “We’ve achieved so much in human and civil rights, but we are also still fragile. There are countries where women can’t own property, sex and violence is used in war and there is sex trafficking.”

Richardson said those topics would be addressed at the center as would health issues like HIV/AIDS and immigration. She said interactive exhibits and programs for all ages are part of the NCCHR mission.

“We see human rights in peril all around us though we live in a time of unprecedented access to tools to stand up for each other,” she said. “Working with local, national and international supporters, we will create an amazing asset for justice and humanity.”

Shipman said alongside monetary donations, the NCCHR also needs volunteers to assist with current programs and they also want to hear from residents who might have material suitable for exhibition or archiving at the center.

Shipman said he and other staffers was available to come and speak at “friend-raisers” with groups large and small to spread the word about NCCHR.

For more information about the center, visit

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

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