Focused on Mississippi: Smith Robertson Museum

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JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – The Smith Robertson Museum is housed in a historic building itself, the old Smith Robertson school, which was Jackson’s first school for African-Americans that opened in 1894. The school closed in 1971 during desegregation, but reopened as a museum in 1984 under the direction of Dr. Jessie Mosley and Dr. Alfredteen Harrison.

Charlene Thompson is the manager today and says the museum’s mission is to tell the broad story from the beginning all the way until to today, from Africa to America to Mississippi and beyond, the great migration to the northern factories, and also in a new section still under construction. And more important to Mississippi: the story of those who didn’t leave, those who stayed behind.

“We want to share that story- talk about everything that we’ve experienced as a people here in the state of Mississippi,” said Charlene Thompson, manager of the Smith Robertson Museum.

A couple of exhibits I found fascinating: One, the gallery of photographs of the Farish Street District in its heyday. It was the center of commerce and culture and entertainment for the black community in Jackson.

“We talk about the Farish Street Historic District and how it loaned itself to the greatness of the people that we’ve become in the State of Mississippi. Those things that we share. The photographs of Dotty Cab and the various nightclubs and theatres and what have you that were on Farish Street.”

One aside, probably the most notable graduate of Smith Robertson School, was Richard Wright. He’s the author of “Native Son” and “Black Boy.”

“Richard had long began to look for outlets in sharing his story, and his pain and hurt and disappointments in life. And in so doing he started to write.”

And part of his story, as well as the story of African American’s in Mississippi, is right here at Smith Robertson Museum.

The museum also has a modest art exhibit as well as folk art. It is on Bloom Street in Jackson.

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