Museum dedicated to enshrining ‘racist memorabilia’ given $6 million from state for expansion project
BIG RAPIDS, Mich. — A large tree with a noose hanging from one of its branches, KKK robes, and “whites only” signs are among the thousands of artifacts on display at a museum at Ferris State University that is undergoing a major expansion project.
The public university in Michigan houses the Jim Crow Museum, which has been part of the campus for many years. Now the vast collection of what the university dubs “racist memorabilia” is slated to get its own building thanks to a capital campaign underway.
Officials are set to break ground on the new building in 2025, according to the museum’s website, adding that so far the campus has raised $14 million of a $22 million goal.
Once the building is complete, the museum can be moved from the bottom floor of the campus library to its own facility. An image of the planned building shows it’s a large, two-story structure.
Ferris State has received $6 millions dollars in state funding over the last two years to help the project along, reported Michigan Capitol Confidential, a publication of the center-right think tank and watchdog group the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
The group labeled the use of taxpayer dollars a “pork” project, and pointed out that Ferris State’s in-state tuition is 21 percent higher than the national average and that the university also raised tuition for undergraduates by 3.16 percent in 2021-22 and by 3.2 percent in 2022-23.
In a statement to The College Fix, a Mackinac Center representative said that this year’s budget “included $1.8 billion in pork projects, which typically benefit individual lawmakers and their districts.”
“We have published a series of articles that take a look at the pork spending in the budget and offer context for the district-specific appropriation. Our view on pork projects is that if lawmakers feel these district projects are important, they should bring them through the normal appropriations process. It’s also worth noting that Ferris State University currently receives tax dollars and is getting an additional $59.6 million in direct appropriations from the 2024 state budget.”
Ferris State University also houses a Museum of Sexist Objects.
Officially titled “The Jim Crow Museum of Racist Imagery,” it was founded nearly two decades ago and is home to a collection of around 20,000 objects that depict racism toward African Americans, its website states.
Visitors to the museum, which is open to the public, are greeted with the explanation that the museum uses “objects of intolerance to teach tolerance and promote social justice.”
Many students at Ferris State are required to visit the museum as part of one of their classes. The museum also encourages local high schools to bring students on field trips, which includes a lesson plan that asks educators to help students become aware of their bias.
The museum is run by David Pilgrim, vice president for diversity and inclusion at Ferris State University. Pilgrim denied The College Fix’s request for a press pass to visit the publicly funded museum during the fall semester.
Visitors can take a virtual tour of the museum. Jim Crow is the name of a practice of segregating African Americans between 1877 to the mid 1960s.
According to the museum’s website, it takes objects once meant for harm and contextualizes their role in American history to facilitate conversations that will help Americans avoid mistakes of the past.
Pilgrim, the museum’s curator, states on the website that he collects racist objects “to understand the many ways that these objects reflected and shaped attitudes toward African Americans.”
The university — which is located in a very small city of only 9,000 residents — justifies the expense of maintaining the museum by arguing that the university’s founder, Woodbridge Ferris, was a champion of civil rights and sought to create a diverse institution.
The museum includes many traditional items of Jim Crow memorabilia, like various “Whites Only” signs. Everyday items on display also include lighters, postcards, jewelry, Halloween masks, fishing lures, sheet music, detergent boxes and more.
There are also more graphic artifacts and images, including a life-sized tree in the middle of the museum with a noose hanging from it, as well as chains, whips, and a dedicated section of n-word caricatures, including a T-shirt that states “I love N- that are dead!” and a “N- family tree,” which depicts a family tree of nooses.
There is also an entire display of KKK robes, hoods, books, flags, weapons, “klan children” and many different photographs of real KKK members.
The museum also includes many different children’s toys, dolls, GI Joe figures, games and books, such as “Little Rascals.” Items such as a Raggedy Ann Doll, several games of Old Maid, and a copy of Walt Disney’s Uncle Remus are also displayed.
There is also an exhibit containing Barack Obama political objects and campaign items, a few of which include a Barack Obama chia pet, Halloween masks, disappoint-mints, and even a shirt depicting President Obama being lynched.
IMAGES: Ferris State University Jim Crow Museum virtual tour screenshots