David Pilgrim, the founder and director of the Jim Crow Museum at Ferris State University, brought racist artifacts to the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum.
Pilgrim spoke about the pieces during the Hateful Things lecture on Feb. 5 in the Rhea Miller Recital Hall. Pilgrim collected his first piece of racist memorabilia when he was barely a teenager at a flea market. In the mid–1990s, he donated over 3,000 artifacts to Ferris State University, where the Jim Crow museum resides today.
Most of the museum pieces are from the Jim Crow period, from 1870s to 1960. However, Pilgrim said the museum also displays items that were created in recent years, which surprises people when they visit the museum.
“Young visitors to the museum ask me, ‘What was it like to live during the civil rights struggle?’ I gently tell them that we are living during the civil rights struggle,” Pilgrim said.
He also pointed out that these items aren’t what people usually think of as propaganda – they are everyday objects. Some of these everyday items included license plates, playing cards and postcards.
He said that he noticed the art around Ferris State lacked diversity. Pilgrim said there is a simple question to ask if one is trying to figure out if their college campus is truly inclusive.
“Do the people believe the campus belongs to them as much as everyone else?” he asked.