Jim Crow Museum

November 29, 2013

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Ferris State University | Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia | Big Rapids, Michigan


Using Objects of Intolerance to Promote Social Justice


It is a “brutally honest educational journey,” followed by an opportunity to talk candidly about U.S. racial history, says David Pilgrim, founder and curator of Ferris State University’s Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia.


With an aim to inform as well as engage visitors in open dialogue, Pilgrim made available more than 9,000 artifacts he had amassed to tell the story of U.S. racism and race relations – from the arrival of Africans as slaves in the 1600s, through the era of Jim Crow, to the present day.


Jim Crow is a characterization of the racial caste system, which operated between 1877 and the mid-1960s. It involved a series of rigid anti-black laws, as well as a way of life using segregation to relegate African-Americans to the status of second-class citizens.


Working with Pilgrim and his team, Xibitz designed and constructed more than 3,000 square feet of exhibits highlighting the breadth and depth of this collection. The exhibits lead visitors through some extremely difficult material, challenging assumptions that most of us do not even recognize in ourselves. At the end of the exhibit, visitors experience more positive stories and images of black achievement and have the opportunity to debrief and discuss with each other what they have experienced.

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