“I could not help but think about how far we have come to this point, and how proud I am of Mississippi and how proud I am that these two buildings are going to show the world — not only the state of Mississippi, not only other states, but the world—who we are, where we have been, where we are today and where we are going,” she said.
Hank Holmes, director of the state Department of Archives and History, said the exhibits won’t minimize the parts of the past that some might consider embarrassing or uncomfortable.
“There is no sugar coating,” Holmes said.
The civil rights museum, focusing on 1945-70, will display the rifle that a white supremacist used in 1963 to kill Medgar Evers, whose slaying helped propel the struggle for equality to national attention.
Also, it will have among its displays information about the 1955 slaying of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African-American from Chicago who was said to have whistled at a white woman in a rural Mississippi grocery store. Till was kidnapped, badly beaten and shot in the head, and his body dumped in the Tallahatchie River. Till’s mother allowed photos of his brutalized body to be published, galvanizing the fledgling civil rights movement.
Like many Deep South states, Mississippi had segregated schools and public facilities until the 1960s and 1970s — facilities that people in power once falsely labeled “separate but equal.” Holmes said African-Americans’ stories will be integrated into both museums, not simply segregated into the civil rights segment.
“Stories help connect us. They are how history has been shared and handed down for centuries,” Evers-Williams and Cochran wrote in an essay. “They inspire us, teach us, and, sometimes, embarrass us. Mississippi, in many ways, provides America with a clear look into the mirror.”