Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette: 'Hateful Things' exhibits racist memorabilia from Thurs.

David Pilgrim, founder of the Jim Crow Museum in Michigan, shows off some of his collection of racist memorabilia. A traveling tour of memorabilia opens Thursday at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock. (Special to the Democrat-Gazette)

by Sean Clancy

September 17, 2019

Hateful things are coming to the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in Little Rock.

Among them are advertisements, signs, board games, children's books and postcards.

They come from the more than 14,000-piece collection of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., and represent, in the museum's words, "nearly 150 years of anti-black, racist objects and images."

The objects make up "Hateful Things," the museum's traveling exhibit that opens Thursday at the Mosaic Templars center. Jim Crow Museum founder and director David Pilgrim will speak and answer questions at the opening.

"These objects were everywhere, in every room in homes; they were in stores, they were so common you did not see them," Pilgrim says. "But when you create a facility like we have, and you put thousands of them in the same place, it forces people to look at these objects that were so common that they were invisible."

The exhibit is being brought to the Templars center to mark the 100th anniversary of the Elaine Massacre, the racial conflict that began Sept. 30, 1919, in Phillips County and left an unknown number of black residents dead.

Pianist Linda Holzer will perform Fantasie Negre at the exhibit opening, which was written by Little Rock native Florence Price in 1929. Many believe she composed it in remembrance of the Elaine Massacre.

Christina Shutt is director of the Mosaic Templars center.

"The Elaine Massacre is not just a blip in history ... things like that could happen again," she says. "You build up a culture of hate, you build up a culture of intolerance, you build up a culture of fear. I think that is most poignantly represented through racist propaganda and racist images."

Objects in the exhibit "shaped and reflected the attitudes that undergirded the atrocities committed against black people," Pilgrim says.

The pieces gathered by the Jim Crow museum aren't just relics of the past, and racially insensitive objects are still around, Shutt says, mentioning a sweater marketed by Gucci earlier this year that resembled blackface.

"Often when we think about history, we think about things that happened before our lifetime, but the museum collects things that feature former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. These things are in our present as well, and people are still out there creating this racist imagery."

The items in "Hateful Things," which will be at the center until Nov. 30, will be presented with panels that place the images in historical context.

"Our goal is to get people to talk honestly and deeply about race, race relations and racism," Pilgrim says.

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