Exploring Mississippi's Cultural Traditions Through Live Demonstrations at Museums

The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson is a unique institution that documents and exhibits the history of the fight against segregation. It was inaugurated by President Donald Trump, despite boycotts by civil rights leaders. The museum is part of a region that encompasses parts of Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Illinois and the communities that call it home. The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is an annual event held by the Smithsonian Center for Folk Life and Cultural Heritage.

It is a research-based educational presentation that features master craftsmen and other traditional bearers. Visitors are invited to sing and dance, try craft workshops and games, learn traditional recipes, ask questions, and participate in this unique cultural exchange. The festival is free and takes place for two weeks every summer on the National Mall, coinciding with the 4th of July holiday. The region owes many of its cultural traditions to the Mississippi River and the many smaller rivers that cross the area.

In the early 1900s, traveling “medical exhibitions” were the only form of entertainment in many rural American communities and one of the most lucrative sources of employment for folk musicians. African-Americans in Mississippi were initially hesitant to support the proposal for a civil rights museum due to fear that a covert version of the state's difficult civil rights struggle would be created. The museum site was moved to a vacant lot located a little north of the archive building, on a plot bounded by North Street, Mississippi Street, and North Jefferson Street. It is the first state-sponsored civil rights museum in the United States.

The remaining segments of the museum are more spacious and focus on a 30-year period during which Mississippi was at the forefront of the fight for civil rights. The names of more than 600 African-Americans lynched in Mississippi are engraved on five large commemorative headstones. Live demonstrations are held at northeastern Mississippi museums to explore this unique region's cultural traditions. Through these demonstrations, visitors can gain insight into how American religious communities and traditions intertwine with each other to create imaginative encounters.

They can also learn about traditional craftsmen and other traditional bearers, as well as participate in cultural exchanges such as singing and dancing, trying craft workshops and games, learning traditional recipes, and asking questions. The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum is an important part of northeastern Mississippi's cultural heritage. Through live demonstrations held at this museum and other northeastern Mississippi museums, visitors can gain an understanding of this region's history and culture.

Kevin Gilstad
Kevin Gilstad

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