Provocative exhibits at one of America’s newest museum’s include a full-size replica of a lynching tree with many items portraying black men as lazy, violent or inarticulate.
The objects displayed in the U.S. state of Michigan’s newest museum are steeped in racism so intense that it makes visitors cringe.
That’s the idea behind the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, which says it has amassed the nation’s largest public collection of artifacts spanning the segregation era, from Reconstruction until the civil rights movement, and beyond.
The museum in a gleaming new exhibit hall at Ferris State University ‘is all about teaching, not a shrine to racism,’ said David Pilgrim, the founder and curator who started building the collection as a teenager.
Its name – Jim Crow – is often used to describe the segregation laws which arose after Reconstruction ended in 1877 and continued until the mid-1960s.
Mr Pilgrim, who is black, makes no apologies for the provocative exhibits. The goal of the $1.3 million gallery, he explained, is ‘to get people to think deeply.’
The displays are startling. The n-word is prevalent throughout and black women are shown as kerchief-wearing mammies, sexually charged Jezebels or other stereotypes.
Jim Crow: The name of the museum is often used to describe the segregation laws which arose after Reconstruction ended in 1877 and continued until the mid-1960s
The shocking images exact an emotional cost.‘There’s parts in that room – the main room – where it’s quite gut-wrenching,’ said Nancy Mettlach, a student conduct specialist at Ferris.
‘And the thought that was going through my mind was: “How can one human being do this to another human being?”‘
Mr Pilgrim, a former sociology professor at Ferris State, started the collection in the 1970s in Alabama. Along the way, he ‘spent more time in antique and flea markets than the people who work there.’