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Meaningful Dialogue

***The staff of the Jim Crow Museum receives dozens of letters and emails. Some of these communiques offer insight into race relations -- historically and in the present. While some are hateful, we have decided to share some of these letters and emails with our Internet visitors.***

I'm a professor of history at Bay Path College, a small women's college in western Massachusetts, and just incorporated your online exhibit into a class discussion of racial stereotypes for my African American history course. I'm sure our experience is like countless others you've heard of: the site led to very deep discussion, soul searching and I think a much more profound and personal understanding of how pervasive racism was (and is) in our society. The articles were especially useful. An African American student admitted to feeling uneasy when first entering the site but believed it was very important for everyone to see this material. The white students were perhaps most affected, many feeling a deep sense of remorse and stating that they never knew how extensive these images were (the everyday nature of them hit home most). Many were especially upset to find the cartoons they grew up with included so many racial caricatures. I tried to approach the site aware of the need for context and sensitivity (as a white instructor I felt an especial need to be delicate). Earlier in the week we viewed parts of the documentary "Black History: Lost Stolen or Strayed" narrated by Bill Cosby which does a great job with stereotypes in cinema. Anyhow, I believe your site led to a very deep and meaningful dialogue that benefitted all the students and I just wanted to express my thanks personally for the important work you're doing as curator. It is an excellent educational tool that moved my students and myself very much.

Thanks. Respectfully,

Dr. Robert Surbrug
-- Feb. 19, 2005