Greenwood has a prominent place in the year-old Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, and the city should be proud to be included in telling this history, even if painful, in such an honest and moving way, says one of the people responsible for helping to promote the museum.

“The things that happened in Greenwood radiated out to Mississippi, radiated out to the whole country. Greenwood has a lot to be proud of in the progress you’ve made here,” Brother Rogers, director of the Programs and Communications Division of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, told the Greenwood Rotary Club Tuesday.

Exhibits in the downtown Jackson museum, which covers the civil rights movement from 1945 to 1976, include panels that retell the efforts made by civil rights leaders in Greenwood to register blacks to vote and counter other forms of rampant racial discrimination, as well as the resistance these efforts often met.

There is a panel, for example, about Freedom Day in Greenwood in 1964, when the city was picked as one of three in the state — the other two were Hattiesburg and Canton — where an attempt was made to register in mass at the county courthouses. There is another panel about when arsonists in 1963 torched the Greenwood office of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, one of the major civil rights organizations working in Mississippi at the time.

Among the museum’s “most cherished artifacts,” Rogers said, are the wooden doors from Bryant’s Grocery and Meat Market in Money, through which 14-year-old Emmett Till fatefully walked in 1955, before the black 14-year-old was kidnapped and murdered for being fresh with the white female shopkeeper, Carolyn Bryant, who tended the counter inside. Till’s murder and the subsequent acquittal of Till’s killers by an all-white jury are credited with galvanizing the civil rights movement.

Rogers acknowledges that many parts of the Civil Rights Museum are unavoidably sobering, but he said that the decision to tell the story straight of the struggle for equality in Mississippi has also drawn high praise.

“We’ve been getting great accolades and have won dozens of awards already ... for being honest in telling our story,” he said.

The Civil Rights Museum and its adjacent Museum of Mississippi History, both of which opened in December 2017, drew more than 250,000 visitors in their first year, far exceeding the 180,000 that had originally been projected, Rogers said.

The two museums, which cost $90 million in state funding to build and equip, complement each other, Rogers said.

While the Civil Rights Museum focuses on depth, the Museum of Mississippi History handles the breadth, covering with its 1,400 artifacts not only Mississippi’s 200 years since becoming a state but thousands of years before that.

“It is first class,” Rogers said of the two museums. “It is Smithsonian quality. It makes you really proud to be a Mississippian when you go there.”

The museums are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets for adults are $10 for the Civil Rights Museum and $15 to see both museums, with discounts for children and senior citizens. Admission is free on the third Saturday of every month.

Rogers said to plan on spending at least two hours in each museum. He recommends using the morning to take in the Museum of Mississippi History and the afternoon for the Civil Rights Museum, with a break for lunch in between.

Contact Tim Kalich at 581-7243 or tkalich@gwcommonwealth.com.

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