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Mississippi Civil Rights Museum

Mississippi Civil Rights Museum

Located next to Mississippi’s history museum on a site that once housed the state fairgrounds and Capitol building, the complex combines two museums into one, using modern methods of exhibition.

One gallery is devoted to the 1961 Freedom Rides, with mugshots of riders lining the walls.

The center of the building is a soaring space called This Little Light of Mine, where images of civil rights heroes encircle a dramatic light sculpture that pulsates to gospel music. Click here for more info.

The Story

The museum, which has a companion Mississippi History Museum in the same building, tackles its thorny subject with sensitivity and eloquence. Though it doesn’t shy away from hard truths, the exhibits – including a series of small immersive theaters – resist simple narratives.

Several warning signs alert visitors to graphic content, but the museum doesn’t offer trigger warnings per se; the galleries and their harrowing stories of lynchings, marches, and speeches are gripping in their own right. The Emmett Till section, for example, is anchored by a theater narrated by Oprah Winfrey that recounts the 1955 kidnapping of the 14-year-old boy who was accused of flirting with a white grocery store clerk and his murder in the Tallahatchie River.

Other galleries explore the fallacy of “separate but equal.” A schoolroom setting, for instance, recreates a whites-only public school to illustrate pathetic attempts at integration; in another alcove, a touch screen allows you to browse files from the State Sovereignty Commission (the domestic CIA of its time), which kept records on people suspected of supporting desegregation.

The Experience

The museum is a vast collection of galleries and exhibits that tell the story of Mississippi’s civil rights history. Artifacts, films, and interactive displays take visitors on a journey from the Transatlantic slave trade to the modern civil rights movement.

The first gallery focuses on how African Americans built strong communities through family and church, despite oppression by white Mississippians. The second gallery examines how African American men fought in World War II and returned to segregated Mississippi determined to fight for equality.

The third gallery honors people who risked their lives for the civil rights movement. A dramatic light sculpture shines on a series of monuments to the victims of lynching. A theater features Oprah Winfrey as she narrates the 1955 murder of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy who was kidnapped and killed after flirting with a white grocery store clerk in a segregated Mississippi town. The murder ignited the modern civil rights movement. This article is worth reading.

The Artifacts

The museum’s eight galleries share the stories of struggle and hope that forged a movement that changed a state. Mugshots of Freedom Ride activists line one gallery; photos of black students linked arms in dignity during a sit-in; the doors of the Bryant Grocery, through which 14-year-old Emmett Till walked before being brutally murdered by racist shopkeepers.

The experience is powerful thanks to the specificity of its primary-sourced narratives and the ingenuity of the exhibits. The museum is a must-visit for anyone interested in civil rights history in the US.

In addition to educating visitors about the struggles of black Mississippians, it inspires action. The museum’s rotunda is where people gather to reflect and share their experiences. And the uplifting call of negro spirituals rings through its halls. An added bonus is the museum’s commitment to educating teachers. A National Endowment of the Humanities grant enables it to offer digital resources for classrooms.

The Location

The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, along with the adjacent Museum of Mississippi History, opened on December 9, 2017. The first state-sponsored civil rights museum in America, it illuminates the sweep of Jackson’s tumultuous struggle for racial equality. Its eight interactive galleries, a mix of text, photographs, and artifacts that sometimes tip into cacophony, reveal layers of narratives ignored in broad-brush histories. They honor local activists whose role as “foot soldiers” is central to the story, and they highlight the impact of grassroots movements.

From shackles to mugshots, marches to speeches, the museum tells its stories with a bracing frankness that isn’t afraid to show the brutalities of racism and the courage of countless unsung heroes. It is a Jackson treasure that should not be missed. Browse the next article.

 

 

Driving directions from Surface Medic Exterior Cleaning to Mississippi Civil Rights Museum

Driving directions from Mississippi Civil Rights Museum to Mississippi Museum of Natural Science