Mississippi to Open State Funded Civil Rights Museum
JACKSON, Miss. - It’s an unremarkable plot of land, nestled between the state’s archives, fairgrounds and Capitol building, but history will be made there Thursday when state officials and civil rights leaders gather to break ground for the country’s first state-funded civil rights museum.
Built in conjunction with a new state history museum erected on the same site, both are scheduled to open in 2017 in time for the state’s bicentennial. The two museums will be built “side-by-side” as the locals say, and will be connected to one another by a common entryway, sharing classroom space, an auditorium and resources.
With its violent history of hate crimes and staunch resistance to the civil rights movement, it might surprise some that Mississippi would be the first state to fund the building of a civil rights museum, signaling the beginning of a major change in race relations in one of the most historically segregated states in the country.
“This is going to make a powerful statement I think, not only to the state but to the country,” said William Winter, a Democrat and governor from 1980 to 1984. “That in Mississippi, we now understand the importance of the participation of both races of black folks and white folks working together, to build a state, and out of that come the mutual respect and understanding of our common humanity at the same time that we understand the differences of the history that go into our respective backgrounds.”
Winter is a major supporter of what’s been dubbed the 2 Mississippi Museums Project, for years advocating better race relations between blacks and whites in the south through The William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation.
“I think it’s appropriate, I think it’s the right thing to do and I think this is the right place to do it,” he said.