Villains and Heroes (a.k.a., Saints and Sinners)

Last year, Mississippi opened a state Civil Rights Museum a few blocks from my hotel in Jackson. The rain let up for a while today so I ran over to check it out.

The Mississippi State Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, MS is different than the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN in a couple of ways. One, it focuses on Civil Rights events specifically in Mississippi. Two, it is bolder, more direct, and somehow more passionate.

Even the architecture and design add to the effect in Jackson. One of the most striking for me was toward the end. The path through the museum would eventually lead into a wide but angular corridor. There were crowded displays along the walls, but down center in a straight row were multiple flat black glass columns, each about 10 feet high and about 18 inches wide. Front and back, they listed the name, date, and race of every lynching victim in the state’s history. Column after column, hundreds upon hundreds of names. They were unavoidable. Which, I assume, was the point.

It was moving and infuriating at the same time. Yet the museum also held many reasons for hope. In addition to some terrible, horrible events, Mississippi’s history is also filled with courage, conviction, and a dedication to progress.

I’m leaving MS tomorrow morning. However, as a result of my time here, my mind has been changed about this state. Which is what I came here for.

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