Singular museums tell their own civil rights stories

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Numerous little-known places around the state tell extraordinary stories about Mississippi’s African American heritage and the civil rights movement. Among them:

Fannie Lou Hamer Museum

“The Old Storyteller” draws a crowd with tales about slavery, Jim Crow and the civil rights movement at a museum in Belzoni.

• The “Old Storyteller” recites centuries-old oral history about slavery, Jim Crow and the civil rights movement in a corsortium of museums under one roof honoring the Rev. George W. Lee, Fannie Lou Hamer and Pinetop Perkins Blues in Belzoni. 17150 George W. Lee Highway 49, Belzoni. (662) 836-7761

• The Jacqueline House Museum is Vicksburg’s only museum devoted exclusively to the study of the history and culture of people of African descent. In the museum’s collection of more than 20,000 items are photographs, books, manuscripts, music, posters, newspapers and rare ephemera including items dating back to slavery. 1325 Main St., Vicksburg. (601)-636-0941

Rural civil rights sites crave collaboration with new Jackson museum

• In 1963, Canton businessman George Washington offered a house he owned as a refuge and communications hub for voter registration volunteers and other civil rights workers who came to Madison County. It became the target of bombings, vandalism and other threats of violence and now serves as The Canton Freedom House museum. 838 George Washington Ave., Canton. (601) 317-2557

G. Douglas Adams Photography

The Natchez Museum of African American History and Culture

• The Natchez Museum of African American History and Culture was opened in 1991 by the Natchez Association for the Preservation of African American Culture, an organization dedicated to exploring the societal contributions made by people of African origin and descent. 301 Main St. Natchez. (601) 445-0728 

• The African American Military History Museum once operated as a united services organization where African American soldiers stationed at Camp Shelby in the 1940s could relax, socialize and enjoy recreation. Renovated and opened as museum in 2009, the building houses documents, artifacts and photographs about black military men and women from the Revolutionary War to the global war of terrorism. 305 E 6th St. Hattiesburg. (601) 450-1942

Ashley FG Norwood, Mississippi Today

The Emmett Till Historic Intrepid Center in Glendora

• Emmett Till’s murderers, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam, stole a blast wheel from a cotton gin and tied it around the teenager’s neck before dumping his body into the Black Bayou. That gin is now the Emmett Till Historic Intrepid Center, opened and operated by Glendora Mayor Johnny B. Thomas. A documentary about the town’s contributions to the blues and the civil rights movement precedes an exhibit of events leading to the kidnapping and murder of 14-year old Emmett Till in 1955.  33 E. Thomas St. Glendora. (662) 375-7333

• The first public school for African American children in Jackson now houses the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center. Named after the city’s first black alderman, the museum explores African American history throughout the South with photographs, art exhibits and artifacts. 528 Bloom St. Jackson. (601) 278-5975

Ashley FG Norwood, Mississippi Today

Photo of Ida B. Wells-Barnett, right, and her family featured in the Ida B. Wells-Barnett Museum and Cultural Center in Holly Springs

• The Ida B.Wells-Barnett Museum focuses on the life and legacy of the civil rights pioneer. Wells-Barnett was said to have been born in slave quarters within feet of the current museum in 1862. Her father helped build and her mother cooked in the mansion that is now the museum named for her. The museum also shares the contributions of other African Americans from Holly Springs. A variety of family heirlooms and artifacts once belonging to Wells-Barnett are featured. 220 North Randolph Ave., Holly Springs. (662) 252-3232

• Medgar Evers feared for the safety of his family, so their house in Jackson did not have a front door. His concern was well founded: He was assassinated at his home in 1963. Today, as guests enter the Evers’ former home through the carport, a museum curator tells the chilling story of the night Evers was murdered standing only steps away. The Medgar Evers Home Museum includes a room dedicated to Evers’ life, activism and assassination through photos, documents and artifacts. 2332 Margaret W Alexander Dr. Jackson. (601) 977-7839

Ashley FG Norwood, Mississippi Today

Medgar Evers Home Museum in Jackson