Mississippi's New Museums Shed Light on Its Civil Rights History Like Never Before
Many of the exhibits focus on the Jim Crow era.
Two new museums are opening in Mississippi this week that will explore the state's often controversial history concerning Civil Rights.
“These museums are telling the stories of Mississippi history in all of their complexity,” said Katie Blount, director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, which operates the two new museums, in a statement. “We are shying away from nothing. Understanding where we are today is shaped in every way by where we have come from in our past.”
The scope of the museums covers Mississippi from prehistoric times to the modern age, but much of the focus is on its Civil Rights history. Objects include the mug shots of every freedom rider arrested in Mississippi, a timeline of the Jim Crow era, and the doors of the grocery store where Emmett Till had the interaction that ultimately led to his murder.
The state served as an organizing ground for some of the most important protests of the Civil Rights era, including the Freedom Rides. In this protest, hundreds of black and white activists risked their lives by traveling through the deep south on segregated buses, violating Jim Crow laws. The demonstration triggered violent pushback and served as a challenge to the segregation laws that governed life in the early 1960s.
The Mississippi state government provided $90 million for the creation of the two museums, and a series of private donations and endowments provided the $19 million for the remaining funding, according to a statement.
The grand opening is set to take place Saturday, with Civil Rights leaders such as Georgia Rep. John Lewis in attendance. President Donald Trump is also expected to attend, a move that has drawn the ire of the NAACP. All of the free tickets for opening weekend have already been claimed.