JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Mississippi has a special relationship with the Civil Rights Movement because many of the pivotal events of the movement happened here. Mississippi coming to grips with its past culminated in the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. You might say it’s a monument to Dr. Martin Luther King.

We just celebrated the fifth anniversary of the Two Mississippi Museums, the History Museum and the Civil Rights Museum. The Civil Rights Museum is an expanded view of a slice of Mississippi history. It’s such an important slice to Mississippi and the United States that it has to have its own space.

If anyone was expecting a sanitized or watered-down version of what happened in Mississippi during the Civil Rights era, they may have been shocked at the frankness and openness of the museum. There are accounts of lynchings, burnings, murders, marches, jailings, with a roll call of the outstanding leaders of the movement in Mississippi. 

One of the intangibles that happened during the dark days of the movement was the unspoken support and inspiration each of these leaders provided to others during the times of aloneness and despair. Unita Blackwell, who became Mayor of Mayersville in the mid 1970s, a town where she had been chased and shot at early on, says it was Dr. King’s inspiration that kept her going sometimes. 

“He believed in what he said. To have that belief in the midst of what we went through, dogs, police, all these things, jails, and we were jailed and everything. It was a man who could make you feel that this is truly the right thing to do,” she said.

I have to think that that must have been in the minds of the architects, curators and planners of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. It is a painful past. But what better way to make sure we never live it again than to own up to it with a vow to keep on doing the right things in the future. 

If you haven’t visited the museums, there’s free days every weekend an at special times throughout the year.