Civil Rights Follow through on museum plans

Published 12:02 am Sunday, January 16, 2011

Less than a month after being excoriated for comments about growing up in small-town Mississippi, Gov. Haley Barbour has implored lawmakers to make a civil rights museum in Mississippi a reality.

Barbour, in his final State of the State address, said, “The civil rights struggle is an important part of our history, and millions of people are interested in learning more about it. People from around the world would flock to see the museum and learn about the movement.”

This is not the first time Barbour has pushed for a civil rights museum. In 2007, he asked lawmakers to make the museum a reality, but bureaucratic wrangling over a site for the museum pushed the idea to the back burner. The timing of the renewed push might be tied to comments Barbour made about growing up in Yazoo City. He said he never thought things were that bad and said the Citizen’s Council kept the Ku Klux Klan out of Yazoo.

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State and national pundits leaped, referring to Barbour as a racist insensitive to the plight of blacks in Mississippi. So the fact he is pushing for the museum might be politically motivated, especially since he has said he is considering a run for the president’s office. Whatever the reason, the time is right for a museum.

Alabama and Tennessee both have civil rights museums. No state, though, has the history of struggle for civil rights as Mississippi. Building a monument to those who assisted in the move for equality is the right thing to do. And this is the right time to do it.

Mississippi brands itself as a tourist destination with beaches, music, history and culture. Constructing a civil rights museum in Jackson would just add to that push.

Fifty years ago, thousands descended on Mississippi to make a change. Over that half century, the state has progressed more, considering where it started, than any other in striving for equality.

It’s time to honor that struggle, and the advancements, no matter the governor’s motivations.