You will be redirected back to your article in seconds
Back to IndieWire

Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia Now Open

Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia Now Open

The new Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia opened last Thursday on Michigan’s Ferris State University’s library basement. Dr. David Pilgrim, an African American collector of racist memorabilia, founded the museum.

Pilgrim, who grew up in Mobile, Alabama, bought a saltshaker in the shape of a mammy at a flea market when he was 12 years old.  In demonstration of his rage, stemming from early childhood years of seeing racist memorabilia at friends and acquaintances’ houses, Pilgrim destroyed the saltshaker in front of the clerk after paying for it.

For several decades after that purchase, Pilgrim decided to buy and collect thousands of racist objects instead. A sociology professor at Ferris State University today, Pilgrim set out to build the museum to educate while confronting America’s history of White supremacy and racism.

In an interview with The Atlantic, Pilgrim said the following when asked for the reason to start collecting the memorabilia:

I went to a historically black college, Jarvis Christian College in Texas, and in addition to teaching the usual math and science, our professors would tell us stories of Jim Crow. One day, one of my professors came into the classroom with a chauffer’s cap. He set the hat down and asked what historical significance it had.

Now, the obvious answer was that blacks were denied many opportunities, and chauffeuring was one of the few jobs open to them. But that was not the right answer. He told us that a lot of professional middle-class blacks in those days always traveled with a chauffer’s hat. The reason: If they were driving a nice new car through a small southern town, they didn’t want police officers, or any other whites, to know the car belonged to them.

I remember that story so vividly. No object has any meaning other than what we assign to it. But that was an incredible meaning to assign to an object that, on the surface, had little to do with racism.

Here’s what he had to say regarding the real purpose of the museum:

We want to take someone who sees the Aunt Jemima label as a nostalgic thing, a picture that reminds them of good times, and introduce that person to someone who sees it as a vestige of slavery or segregation. We want to do the thing we as Americans seem to not want to do — which is talk. As crazy as that sounds, it actually works.

At a first glance at the some of the images, you may think this will only elicit rage and feelings of indignation among African Americans, and be counterproductive to the already tense race relations in this country.  However, the ramifications of the Jim Crow Era racism and segregation are unmistakably pervasive in regards to the ingrained attitudes and perceptions of those who grew up in kitchens and establishments where seemingly innocent and nostalgic racist memorabilia was – and still is – commonplace.

For more information about the museum, visit the site HERE.

Take a look at the video and images below.

This Article is related to: News



This is a very provacative exhibit. We hosted it as an exhibit at the Museum of African American History in Detroit a few years back and I don't think any exhibit recieved as much feedback as this one. It created a lot of discussion in the community. How does the advertising of "NIGGER HEAD TABACCO" in the 30s differ from the R & B singing couple for McDonald's Chicken Nuggets?


The Brown Skin Side Effect:


Many thanks to Dr. David Pilgrim!
I utilized images (crediting his website) on my blog to make my point regarding the love for portraying black women as Mammies in film and literature. The online depictions and accompanying info from the Ferris Museum site is a must for educators.


Everybody says there is a race problem and it will be solved when the third world pours into every White country and only into White countries.
Everybody says the final solution to this race problem is for every White country and only White countries to “assimilate,” i.e., intermarry, with all those non-Whites.
What if I said there was this race problem and it would only be solved if hundreds of millions of non-blacks were brought into every black country and only into black countries?
How long would it take anyone to realize I’m not talking about a race problem. I am talking about the final solution to the black problem?
And how long would it take any sane black man to notice and what kind of psycho black man wouldn’t object ?
But if I tell that obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against my race, the White race, Liberals and respectable conservatives agree that I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.
They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-White.
Anti-racist is a code word for anti-White.


Fully appreciate Dr. Pilgrim's work here. The inclusion of the tree is so powerful, and how they have been used as tools to enforce hatred. White evil and cruelty is so entrenched in this country and this museum has catalogued so much of it. What kind of demon uses a n*** mousepad? And yeah, #3 cracks me up too.


What I take from this is if my ancestors could prosper and keep classy, all while surrounded by such disgusting imagery… then the current generations have no excuse.

other song

It's funny to me when people claim we're in a 'post-racial' society when, not even 50 years ago, this kind of stuff was prevalent. This racism sh*t is DEEP


Keep up the good fight, Dr. Pilgrim. I like that not everything is from Jim Crow era but are modern off shots from it. Should be required visiting for black students. Image #3 makes me want to laugh.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *