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Jim Crow Museum items remind of malignant past

by Helaine Williams | September 29, 2019 at 1:50 a.m.

Museum exhibits are usually seen as highlighting those things of high culture ... items that evoke polite appreciation of their aesthetic nature.

Not so with "Hateful Things," an exhibit that opened Sept. 19 at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock in remembrance of the racial conflict that took place 100 years ago in the Arkansas town of Elaine.

Attendees perused the traveling exhibit, a grim collection of "objects and images that trace the stereotyping of black people from the late 19th century to the present" and hailing from the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich.

Exhibit pieces depict black women as happily enslaved "mammies," angry, rude, loud "Sapphires" and hyper-sexual "Jezebels"; black men as menacing brutes, subservient "Toms" and buffoonish "coons"; and children as "pickaninnies." Also included are signs indicating segregated facilities, and images commending or advocating violence against blacks.

Refreshments were served before and during the night's program, which took place in the museum's third-floor auditorium and featured David Pilgrim, founder and director of the Jim Crow Museum. Linda Holzer's rousing piano performance of Fantasie Negre -- a 1929 piece written by Little Rock native Florence Price and believed to be in remembrance of the Elaine Massacre -- preceded Pilgrim's slideshow-accompanied lecture. Pilgrim interjected a liberal bit of biting humor in his discussion of the Jim Crow Museum and the unfunny history behind its exhibit items, including the origins of the Jim Crow theater character, the racist laws that took on its name, and the individuals who perpetuated demeaning and dehumanizing stereotypes against black people.

Pilgrim ended his talk by announcing plans for a freestanding building for the museum and afterward signed copies of his book, Watermelons, Nooses and Straight Razors: Stories From the Jim Crow Museum.

The exhibit continues through November.

High Profile on 09/29/2019

Print Headline: Jim Crow Museum items remind of malignant past

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