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WUNC reports from Greensboro about Guilford County and surrounding area.

Civil Rights Museum Getting Loan From City

The International Civil Rights Center and Museum faces ongoing financial struggles, and the Greensboro mayor wants the city to take it over.
Jeff Tiberii

The struggling Civil Rights museum in Greensboro will receive a $1.5 million loan from the City. Museum leaders first asked for one and a half million dollars for educational programming earlier this year, than later said they needed the money to keep up with mortgage and loan payments. Members of the city council voted 6-3 Tuesday night and the city will provide half the money in the next 60 days.

“We became a model for this country. You know the Woolworth’s counter is really a symbol and it’s a symbol of the way something was done correctly and I have a hard time turning my back on it right now,” said Councilwoman Nancy Vaughan, who described the facility as a vital part of the City’s history.

Some opponents of the loan called the historical argument ‘emotional’ and said the museum is unsustainable and poorly managed.

“I think we’re rushing into this right now. I think the timing is extremely poor and I think we need to learn from other cities like Birmingham and Memphis. And create best practices instead of just writing a check,” said Councilman Zach Matheny.

Older civil rights museums in Alabama and Tennessee have many more annual visitors and regularly turn a profit. Since it opened in 2010 the facility that honors the sit-in movement and civil rights era has failed to meet attendance goals while running an annual deficit. This loan is contingent upon clean audits of the museum, which aren’t yet complete. The museum will also have to provide a detailed budget as to how the loan will be used. Since the beginning of the project about 20 years ago, the city has provided nearly a million dollars to the Civil Rights museum. 

Jeff Tiberii covers politics for WUNC. Before that, he served as the station's Greensboro Bureau Chief.
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