Does Mississippi want a civil rights museum?

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. (front left) walked in the funeral procession for Medgar Evers in June 1963. Evers was shot and killed in the driveway of his home in Jackson, Miss.
The funeral procession of Medgar Evers

Does the state of Mississippi really want a civil rights museum?

State Senator David Jordan, a black Democrat from Greenwood in Leflore County, certainly isn’t convinced. “It comes to a point that I don’t think Mississippi wants her history clearly told,” he told Byrd.
State Senator Hillman Frazier, a Democrat from Jackson, also has his doubts.  Governor Hailey Barbour initially embraced the idea of building a civil rights museum, but has done little to make it happen.  “It’s very frustrating when you’re visiting Memphis and Birmingham,” Frazier told the WP, “and they’re telling Mississippi’s history when we’re ground zero for civil rights.”
Maybe that’s the problem.  Sheila Byrd leads with this statement:
Mississippi bred some of the worst violence of the civil rights era, yet nearly a half-century after a barrage of atrocities pricked the conscience of the nation, it is one of the few civil rights battleground states with no museum to commemorate the era.
Could it be that the violence of the civil rights struggle in Mississippi, coupled with a general lack of dramatic success, has left white political leaders conflicted and fearful.  I suspect Hailey Barbour would like to toss the black Democrats across the aisle a bone or two, but as I have consistently argued, the Mississippi mainstream isn’t ready to acknowledge the demonic side of Mississippi’s White Power Movement.
This explains why the Curtis Flowers case has been consistently ignored by the Jackson Clarion Ledger and why Lydia Chassaniol’s exuberant embrace of the comically racist White Citizen’s Council goes unreported and unlamented. 
This doesn’t necessarily mean that all white Mississippians oppose constructing a civil museum in their state, or that even most white folks in the Magnolia state are against the idea.  Unfortunately, the “hell no” brigade is too vociferous and widespread for anything good to happen.  No one is sure just how entrenched racial resentment is, and they don’t want to find out.
Friends of Justice has conducted some trial civil rights tours in the Mississippi Delta and hopes to expand this initiative in the coming year.  If you would like to partner with us, or if you’ve got some constructive ideas, let us know.

3 thoughts on “Does Mississippi want a civil rights museum?

  1. This is a very sensitive topic for Mississippians. I hope that more discussion about the history can be generated. If we have learned anything from Africa, I hope it is that wounds can heal and people can forgive, but only if the problem is acknowledged. If these conversations do not take place, I fear that Mississippi could be stuck in this cycle forever. It is really interesting that people would oppose something that may generate profit and tourism in the poorest state. Farish Street in Jackson was the center of a lot of civil rights activity. If the museum were placed in this deteriorating community, it would be really helpful to the movement to revive downtown Jackson.

  2. The problem here is a combination of a distinct enthusiasm deficit in high places, a downturn in the fiscal situation, and wrangling within the civil rights community over the location of the proposed museum. Some want it in Tougaloo; others in downtown Jackson.

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