Two museums to spotlight Mississippi’s history, progress

Civil rights leader Myrlie Evers, center, joins former governors Ronnie Musgrove, from left, William Winter Haley Barbour, and current Gov. Phil Bryant, prior to breaking ground in downtown Jackson on Thursday for the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Civil rights leader Myrlie Evers, center, joins former governors Ronnie Musgrove, from left, William Winter Haley Barbour, and current Gov. Phil Bryant, prior to breaking ground in downtown Jackson on Thursday for the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

By Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – How far Mississippi has come and how far it still can go were celebrated Thursday morning at a ceremony designed to honor the state’s rich, though at times troubled, past.

Governors, former governors, legislators and civil rights leaders spoke nearly in unison about Mississippi’s triumphant future during the groundbreaking of the 2 Mississippi Museums projects in front of hundreds from across the state.

“People worldwide will see why we love this state when they visit and treasure these museums and this history they boldly display,” Gov. Phil Bryant said in the ceremony before ground was broken on the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. “However, they will also see just how far we have come. They will see that Mississippi is much more about the future than the past.”

Former Republican Gov. Haley Barbour, who was in office in 2011 when a $40 million bond package was approved by the Legislature with his backing to begin construction of the two separate but attached museums, and former Democratic Gov. William Winter, who as chair of the Archives and History Board was the leading advocate for the projects, echoed thoughts similar to the current governor.

Democrat Ronnie Musgrove, who served as lieutenant governor and governor when initial funding for the projects was approved, also participated.

The building, located on North Street, will be built on top of a hill on the southeast side of downtown Jackson. The rear of the projects will overlook the state fairgrounds at the bottom of the hill.

Myrlie Evers, widow of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, who was assassinated in the 1960s, said she could not help but think of the fairgrounds during the ceremony. She recalled how people who tried to garner their civil rights were arrested and held at the fairgrounds and fed food and drink from large tubs that their captors would spit in.

She said people from around the world could visit the museums and learn about that past and then see how far the state has come and how far it can go.

Winter, who introduced Evers, said it was her decision to donate her late husband’s official papers to the state’s Department of Archives and History that helped jump-start the project.

Barbour also spoke of the importance of the museum to the state’s tourism and thus economic development efforts.

“It is important to a state that the capital city be something you can be proud of,” he said. “This will make Jackson a better city…It is good for the economy of Jackson and that, too, is good for Mississippi.”

It is estimated than 180,000 people will visit the museums annually.

The museums are slated to open in 2017 to coincide with the celebration of the 200th year of Mississippi statehood.

bobby.harrison@journalinc.com