27 MARCH 2008

When 100 volunteers got together this week to spruce up a Memphis museum, there was one especially recognisable face amid their ranks. Oscar-winning actor Samuel L Jackson had taken time out from filming his latest movie in the city to lend a hand with their efforts.

As the 40th anniversary of the April 4 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr approaches next week, the former Lorraine Motel where he was shot - now the National Civil Rights museum - will become the focus of memorial activities.

And the actor, who served as an usher at the civil rights activist's funeral in 1968, says he wanted to pitch in to help conserve the national landmark.

"These are things that need to be preserved for our young people," says the Snakes On A Plane star. "To understand who we are and what the fabric of the country actually is... how they got some of the freedoms they have and the way of life and comfort they experience now. And who the people were that suffered and made those things happen for them."

Samuel, who grew up in nearby Chattanooga and has always been a passionate advocate of equal rights, did his bit by dusting down statues and helping paint the railings on the blacony where the great man was cut down four decades ago. "Being a Tennessean, being part of the civil rights movement, growing up through it, being in it, of it, around it, knowing the significance of preserving our history and having a place people can come to… is very important," he explained.

Photo: ©
Duster in hand, the actor gets to work cleaning a statue at Memphis' National Civil Rights Museum in the run-up to the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr Photo: © Business Wire
Photo: ©
He also lent a hand painting the railings of the balcony where the activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner was standing when he was shot four decades agoPhoto: © Business Wire
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