The new Mississippi Civil Rights Museum is scheduled to open Dec. 9 in Jackson and will celebrate the work of lesser-known local activists of the national civil rights movement, according to museum director Pamela Junior.
“This is major for the state of Mississippi,” Junior said. “Other places have museums that talk about national civil rights, but the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum talks about our story — an amazing, wonderful story.”
Central to the new museum will be a gallery titled “This Little Light of Mine,” which is a reference to the African-American hymn considered to be the anthem of the civil rights movement. The exhibit will feature some of the everyday heroes who were integral to the movement.
“These people were considered lights of the civil rights movement in Mississippi,” Junior said.
Central to the exhibit will be an interactive light sculpture to which visitors can add their own “light” to make Mississippi shine more brightly.
Other exhibits will cover the state’s history from the start of slavery to the present day, with a primary focus on the civil rights era from 1945 to 1975.
The museum will include a total of eight galleries, each aiming to educate the public on a specific topic during a certain time period.
The closing gallery, titled “Where Do We Go From Here?” seeks to “inspire conversation and consideration, as visitors read the words of Mississippians from all walks of life as they discuss the progress our state has made since the Civil Rights era and the challenges that remain.” Visitors are encouraged to leave comments and thoughts in this gallery for the betterment of the museum and Mississippi.
At the end of museum tours, visitors can take a moment to reflect on what they have learned.
Some artifacts for the museum have been donated by members of the Mississippi civil rights movement; others have been collected by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) since 1902.
“Mississippi was a ground-zero for the civil rights movement,” MDAH director Katie Blount said. “We have been collecting items and will continue to collect items even after the museum has opened. We will try to connect stories through the temporary exhibits.”
The first temporary exhibit will showcase quilts made by people in Mississippi.
Pointing to Mississippi’s pivotal role in the civil rights movement, Junior quoted Bob Moses, the civil rights leader and former director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, who, in 1961, said Mississippi is “the middle of the iceberg.”
“Once that ice was broken, it changed a nation,” Junior said. “It changed the state of Mississippi.”
Junior will deliver a brown bag lecture about the museum at noon this Thursday, Oct. 19, in the J.D. Williams Library. Students are invited to bring their lunches and ask questions about the upcoming museum and the general history of civil rights in Mississippi.