More than 50 years after it was the scene of some of the most violent events during the birth of the Civil Rights movement, the state of Mississippi has yet to establish a museum to commemorate that era.
Among the most compelling incidents that helped galvanize the global drive to end racial injustice was the 1955 murder of Emmitt Till, a 14-year-old Black boy who was bludgeoned to death for “sassing” a White woman, his body tossed into the Tallahatchie River. That horror was surpassed less than 10 years later when Mississippi NAACP Field Secretary Medgar Evers was gunned down outside his home by White sniper, and three young voter registration activists were murdered in the summer of 1964 by the Ku Klux Klan.
However, according to the Associated Press, Mississippi has yet to acknowledge its painful past. As a result, some wonder if Mississippi will ever acknowledge its dark role during one of the worst times in the country’s history.
“It comes to a point that I don’t think Mississippi wants her history clearly told,” said state Sen. David Jordan, an African-American Democrat from Greenwood in Leflore County, Miss. told the AP. According to the AP, a strong push for a museum wasn’t spawned until 2006, when state Sen. Hillman Frazier (D-Jackson) presented a resolution to create a museum study commission. The project was then overseen by Republican Gov. Haley Barbour.
Noting that Tougaloo was a hub of the civil rights activity during the 1960s and ‘70s, Barbour’s commission chose the private Tougaloo College just north of Jackson as the museum site in 2008 and gave the project an estimated price tag of $73 million.
Former Mississippi Gov. William Winter, noted for his work to improve race relations in the state, disagreed with the suggestion that Mississippi’s leaders aren’t truly interested in creating a museum.
“The problem has not been resistance to the concept of having a civil rights museum,” Winter told USA Today. “But I do think it’s important that those who are interested get together on where it would be located.”