JACKSON, Miss. - This past Sunday, Mississippi celebrated it's bi-centennial year with the grand opening of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. The display of untold stories, and history of injustices in Mississippi now shines light on 30 years of dark history between 1945 to 1975.
At the entrance of the Museum, there's an immediate 16th century transatlantic slave trade exhibit to initiate visitors back into the past. As people walk passed the five lynching monoliths - with names from top to bottom on both sides - an emotional yet tense atmosphere of a dark past fills the hallways.
“There’s a series of black manors that has names of people who have been lynched hanging from the trees is very hard to deal with but it sets up the kind of journey that you’re lead through some more positive hero stories,” said visitor, Carolina Whitfield-Smith.
Civil Right Activist, Wheeler Parker, recalled lying in his bed down the hall from Emmett Till - a 14-year-old African American boy who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 for whistling at a white woman - when he heard white men discussing a plan to kidnap Till.
“I heard them talking they said we’re looking for the fat boy that did that talking at the store. I said God were about to die because in the South at that time, you had no protection whatsoever. You could rally at any kind of law and the police would be with them to help kill you. So I said God if you let me live I’ll be doing right. They finally came up to my room, it was dark as midnight. I was shaking like a leaf on a tree. They came in with a pistol and a flashlight and they didn’t kill me. They went to next room and found Emmett in the third room and they took him. That’s the last time we saw him alive,” Activist, Parker explained.
Some Jackson natives described the scene of the museum as emotional filled space with facts and interest. “Today I still feel kind of overwhelmed, at moment there are tears that come up for me as I read the history. I just feel, I feel proud as a Mississippian that we have this and that this is something that people can come experience here in our state,” said Jackson native, Thabi Moyo.
Parker explained in the interview and other people in the area, we need to keep stories accessible, to keep from repeating the past. “We need to do this like the Jews do the Holocaust. Don’t let people forget, in the Bible it says lest thou forget, so don’t forget. What we went through, the price we paid. We really need to take full advantage of the opportunities that come up,”
Museum Director, Pam Junior, told Mississippi Public Broadcasting in an interview, people should leave the museum questioning how will their light shine from here on out? - Especially in Mississippi.