Seeing all the memorabilia of racist objects in one room, I can’t stop but think how unlucky I would be if I was a black person on the early 1800’s to 1900’s. This museum just latched into my emotions, wanting to grieve and empathize for all the African-Americans that were treated as slaves or demeaned and tormented by the whites. They were living in such morbid reality.
It was simply ‘nostalgic’ entering the museum; it was rich of history. It’s the type of history that people want to look away because all is too real and that this certain race of our nation was being worn off by their freedom. Its hurtful looking at all the knickknacks, slogans, propagandas, and products that exploits the ‘black man’ but the truth is: all of those racism happened.
How the Museum Came to Existence
“Is all about teaching, not a shrine for racism.”
Pilgrim, the founder of the Jim Crow Museum started his want for collecting racist caricatures and other objects since he was still a teenager. Pilgrim, an American with African routes, explained that his advocacy for his collection is to get people to think deeply. The website of Ferris State University, the school who is housing the collections of Pilgrim’s collections have many information about why it was significant to give all this objects a permanent home.
The university and some donors were kind enough to fund for the museum. The museum is a free for all admission.
Inside the Home of ‘Racist Collectibles’
All of the 2,000 collections from Pilgrim dates back from the Segregation era, reconstruction until the Civil Rights Movement. There are even collectibles that have happen in recent times, like former-president Obama being made as a ragged monkey stuff toy holding a banana.
The museum features six exhibits: Who and What Was Jim Crow, Jim Crow Violence, Jim Crow and Anti-Black Imagery, Achieving Despite Resistance, The Battle Continues (contemporary forms of racism), A New Wave of Egalitarianism (positive representations of African Americans). It is said that after strolling the museum, Pilgrim wanted that the observant will have a dialogue within him or herself. He even said that some will get mad or offended while there also some who goes through this reflective sadness.
You can really utter in disgust just looking at the anti-black caricatures. The most depressing of all are the illustrations of black people hanging from a tree and the lifelike replica of a lynching tree.
There is also this poster of the prevention of Interracial Sex, it was once believed that practicing it will lead to crime, extortion, rape and CANNIBALISM.
There was one poster of white men spectating black people lynching on a tree and the caption below said ‘they were just negroes.’
There were also many Mammy figurines, it was a black woman dressed in a maid’s outfit. These figurines are very significant in the museum because it shows how the early decades belittle black women as just slaves. Mammy was also depicted to be a ‘big and unattractive’ black woman.
I really hated the print of a black baby drinking ‘negro juice’. In the print it looked like the baby was drinking ink from a straw. How stupid it was for those white people to think and insult black people like that back then.
But what’s terrifying of all are that there are still racist objects that are claimed to be from the presidential term of Obama. Knowing racism is still existent in the modern times.
But after the strolling of all the cringe-worthy objects about the hatred of white people for black people. After counting how much N-word is used in most parts of the exhibit. In the last part of the museum, you will see how the black community aspired to fight back from the Jim Crow Law. Fighting for the testimony that the black community are neither violent nor lazy. A common outreach was Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I have a dream’ speech.
Pilgrim did not want to speak too much about the memorabilia in the exhibits to the people who are about to come and witness. He only gave them the only information needed but it’s the people’s task to understand the story that the museum is trying to tell.
Understanding Jim Crow
The ‘term’ Jim Crow started as a caricature of a clumsy and dimwitted black person. Jim Crow was acted by white actor, Thomas Dartmouth ‘Daddy’ Rice, who used to paint his face black and stereotyped the usual black person while the audience laugh. The Jim Crow character became the embodiment or assumption of how black people acted, the whites didn’t even have to know a real black person but they relied on the Jim Crow character to understand what a black person should be. It’s pretty messed up.
Being stereotyped and belittle, African-Americans face their days as slaves for the white supremacists. They were also being the target of violence. In the later years, the government started to establish the Jim Crow Law, meaning the segregation of white people from other colored race.
You should pay a visit to the museum, if you have the time and money to travel there.
Singer and artist Childish Gambino, who portrayed the Jim Crow pose in his music video, has an article here. You should check out: