The Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia in Michigan has been getting a lot of attention recently, which might have something to do with how much attention the Trayvon Martin case is gettingÂ—the teen's death has led to a nationwide discussion about racism and the devastation that it's still causing today, and curator David Pilgrim is trying to use his one-of-a-kind museum to teach people about the various ways racism has existed in society throughout the years.
Some might see his collection of memorabilia featuring racist caricatures and items that display words like "c**n" and "n****r" as a celebration of racist "art," but Pilgrim doesn't see it that wayÂ—he's hoping to teach tolerance by displaying racist toys, posters, records, and other items that are no longer seen in most places today because of their offensive nature. In a way racist media and products of the past have been buried, so David Pilgrim has created a place to showcase such items.
Pilgrim is a black man himself, and he says that he procured his first racist item when he was a young manÂ—a mammy salt shaker that he purchased in Alabama in the 1970s. He's been buying items ever since, and now they can all be seen at the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University. Pictured left is a Jim Crow caricature similar to one that is featured at the museum.
The former sociology professor has collected some shocking items, including a poster featuring a black baby drinking from an ink well captioned with the words "n****r milk," photos of lynchings, mammy dolls, and items showcasing the use of blackface. In a video tour of the museum, Pilgrim talks about how African Americans were often used as targets at carnivals where whites paid to throw rocks and balls at them. One part of the museum that might really shock those touring it is a section that features items Pilgrim has collected that were made in the last ten years like white supremacy teddy bears and racist mouse pads and underwear (that's rightÂ—underwear).
Of course there are plenty of items referencing Barack Obama, whose presidency seemed to really bring out the worst in racistsÂ—there's an "Any White Guy 2012" shirt and caricatures of Obama as a monkey, lawn jockey, and an illegal immigrant. So while racist products might not be as prevalent today, they do exist.
And racism is spread and celebrated in different ways todayÂ—people know that it's not acceptable with most people, so they'll pass around racist emails or share racist jokes on Facebook. Montana Federal Judge Richard Cebull forwarded an email to his friends containing a joke about Barack Obama's mother having sex with a dog, and California Mayor Dean Grose resigned after forwarding an email featuring watermelons on the White House lawn. So racism certainly isn't dead, and some powerful people are shockingly prejudiced.
It's to be hoped that those visiting the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia do so to learn about the history of racism, but there will probably be those who visit so that they can snicker and take photos of items that they find funny to post on their Facebook pages. It's nice to think that David Pilgrim's idea of teaching tolerance by using objects of intolerance will work on everyone, but the world still has a long way to go before everyone sees the items in his museum the way David doesÂ—"garbage."
A tour of the museum, which opens April 26, can be seen below.
Photo Source: Wikimedia