Henry Louis Gates Jr. expressed positive thoughts about the significance of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University.
Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the University’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African American Research, toured the museum as he and a PBS film crew shot a segment for a six-part series, “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross” for the network.
“This is one of the most important contributions to the study of American History that I have ever experienced,” said Gates, a nationally-known educator, cultural and literary critic, scholar and writer.
As part of the series, Gates plans to focus on the Reconstruction era, Jim Crow and the lynching of African Americans as economic and political terrorism. Gates expressed his enthusiasm for the opportunity to work with Ferris Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion David Pilgrim, the curator and founder of the Jim Crow Museum. Pilgrim discussed the role of racist memorabilia in the creation and perpetuation of negative stereotypical African American images.
Additionally, Pilgrim shared his motivation for the collection of racist memorabilia, and how the Museum uses its objects to educate people with regard to tolerance and to promote social justice.
Gates offered high praise for Pilgrim and his work with the Jim Crow Museum.
“You all are lucky to have this man here, and I think this man deserves a Pulitzer Prize for the Museum,” he said.
Pilgrim, responded, “Thank you for the kind words about our work; it is a team effort. I’m just a garbage collector.”
Gates, who indicated that he looks forward to sharing his experiences with colleagues and others, then added, “No, no, you are my hero. ... It’s true.”
As part of his visit to the university, Gates met with staff from the Jim Crow Museum and the Diversity and Inclusion Office, as well as university officials such as Ronald E. Snead Sr., an alumnus and chair of Ferris’ Board of Trustees and Scott Garrison, dean of the Ferris Library for Information, Technology and Education (FLITE).
The new $1.3 million, 3,500-square-foot museum opened in April and is located in FLITE. The Museum offers a timeline of the African American experience in the United States. The timeline is divided into six sections: Africa before slavery, Slavery in America, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, Civil Rights and Post-Civil Rights. A goal of the Jim Crow Museum is to become a national leader in discussions and research about race, race relations and racism.
Hours are noon to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Admission to the Museum is free. For more information, visit: www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/.