Catfish Row Museum gets $50,000 grant to preserve African American history in Vicksburg

Published 3:34 pm Thursday, June 9, 2022

Vicksburg’s Catfish Row Museum was selected this week by the United States Institute of Museum and Library Services for a $50,000 grant through the Museum Grants for African American History and Culture Program.

According to a statement from U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson’s office, the Catfish Row Museum will build its capacity to offer relevant museum experiences to the public, while expanding its collections and working toward the development of a new exhibit.

The museum will also hire an administrative assistant, who will receive training in best management practices. In partnership with Jackson State University, the museum will conduct research and host community workshops to document local stories and artifacts as it develops a new exhibition highlighting past and present contributions to the civil rights movement in Vicksburg.

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“We are very pleased the Catfish Row Museum was selected to receive the 2022 IMLS African American History and Culture grant,” said Linda Fondren, Executive Director of the Catfish Row Museum. “The grant provides a valuable opportunity to expand our partnership with Mississippi Main Street and the Mississippi Humanities Council for our upcoming ‘Voices and Votes: Democracy in America’ Smithsonian exhibit.

“We can bring people from different communities together, offering a safe space to provide accurate voting information and share stories of concern and hope,” Fondren added.

With this grant, Fondren said the museum plans to expand access to local historical documents and artifacts while providing residents with opportunities to share their stories and contribute to the documentation of the civil rights movement in Vicksburg.

Dr. Stuart Rockoff, executive director for the Mississippi Humanities Council, said the IMLS grant is an exciting development for the Catfish Row Museum and its mission to preserve local history.

“We were excited to hear the news about their IMLS grant because we see this as an outgrowth of their efforts to host Voices and Votes, through the Smithsonian Institute’s Museum on Main Street program,” Rockoff said. “Part of the goal of that program is to build capacity and help small museums to work.

“At this time in our democracy, I think it’s really important for people to understand how important voting is. Connecting it with the struggle to expand voting rights in Vicksburg and voting rights in Mississippi,” he added.

In late 2022, Rockoff said the Catfish Row Museum will begin collecting oral and written histories from Warren County-area residents who lived in the area through the civil rights movement. The program will also provide visitors to the museum with access to documents from that time period. Through a variety of programming, the Catfish Row Museum will invite members of the community to share their stories.

“We’re so thankful for Linda (Fondren) in securing this grant to continue to tell this local story,” Rockoff said. “Our hope is if people learn about the struggle that was endured, people will be inspired to not take their right to vote for granted.”