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Conceptual rendering of the new Jim Crow Museum

Jim Crow Museum Expansion

Expanding our Facility and our Impact

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Telling a larger story
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Help the Jim Crow Museum tell a larger story.

A Message from Dr. David Pilgrim, Founder and Curator

I bought my first piece of racist memorabilia when I was about 12 years old in Mobile, Alabama. It was a salt-n-pepper shaker. Today, some people would call the object black memorabilia—but that label hides the ugliness that it represented. I broke it. In the years that followed, I bought similar objects: two- and three-dimensional items that caricatured, mocked, and belittled Black people. I did not break those pieces. Instead, I began a lifelong quest to collect as many of these objects as I could afford to use as teaching tools. As a young professor, I showed my students the objects I had collected. We sought to understand the many ways that these objects reflected and shaped attitudes toward African Americans.  

In 2012, we opened the current iteration of the Jim Crow Museum on the campus of Ferris State University. Woodbridge Nathan Ferris, the founder of our university, was committed to making this world better. That is a commitment shared by and lived out in the work of the Jim Crow Museum. We take objects that were meant for harm, we contextualize their role in our nation’s past, and we use them to facilitate the conversations that will help us, as Americans, avoid the mistakes of the past. This anti-racism facility is a shrine to the resiliency of African Americans, not a shrine to racism. Every day we have the conversations Americans need to have about race and race relations with our visitors.  In 2021, the public is seeking trusted resources to better understand race, race relations, and racism. African Americans still endure the consequences and injustices of a racist past. The museum and its staff have years of experience in engaging in civil discourse with those of all backgrounds, races, colors, or creeds through challenging history and confrontational objects. They are experts in deploying the museum’s collection to share history, facilitate dialogue, and teach tolerance to the world. As our schools, communities, and institutions strive to foster healing and grapple with uncomfortable and challenging dialogues, Ferris State University is planning, designing, and constructing a new Jim Crow Museum, Archive, and Research Center.

Our new facility and accompanying programs will expand access to the museum’s resources, enhance preservation efforts, and amplify the work of our mission – to use objects of intolerance to teach tolerance and promote a more just society moving forward. A better America is possible, and it will be led by the thoughtful people who are not caught up in happy history – people that see the wrongs of the past and seek to repair the world.

We need dedicated champions who will help us move the important work of the museum forward. I hope you join us.

Take a Virtual Tour of the Museum

A Cutting-Edge Arena for Critical Encounters

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Working with the distinguished Neumann/Smith Architecture design firm, the Jim Crow Museum team has envisioned a vital arena for learning, exploring, and negotiating the complex relationships of modern society. We plan to construct a new state of the art facility that will expand the museum exhibits and narratives to increase the size and impact of the collection, preserve the irreplaceable items, and expand the accessibility of the collection to serve more audiences.

Explore the Conceptual Renderings

Expansion Project Brochure

Expansion Timeline

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Visitors to the JCM

Jim Crow Museum Campaign Cabinet

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