PLSC Civil Rights Pilgrimage Day 8

Listening to Jennifer Ford at the University of Mississippi Archives left me with quite a
few onerous thoughts. I really enjoyed learning about each of the different artifacts from the
collection, but it got me thinking about the decisions and work behind the scenes to create
specific narratives about American history in the Deep South. My first question was: how do we
preserve history? In mainstream American culture, we gather documents, movies, recordings,
and books to tell the story of how our nation evolved, but in other cultures within the United
States, history is oral and lacks the same kind of texts and images that are considered valuable. I
wonder how we can tell the real history of Native Americans and African Americans when their
histories have been suppressed for so long. My next thought was: what history do we show? I
was wondering what parts of our history do we take pride in and what other parts of our history
have we tried to ignore and erase. I think the talk today demonstrated how that has been taking
place from the beginning of American history. Many people would try to erase the horrors and
deaths of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, but the University Archives is attempted to reclaim that
history. My third thought was on the Slave Insurance documents. I had no idea that slave owners
took out insurance for their slaves. I think it ties into what Jennifer Ford said about understand
the Civil Rights Movement. You cannot understand the Civil Rights Movement unless you
understand the 18th and 19th century. The mechanism of American culture and religion that
allowed whites to oppress and enslave African Americans developed and was perfected in the
centuries before the Civil Rights Movement. At the end of the presentation, I thought the card
that compared James Meredith to Abraham Lincoln to be one of the most moving artifacts on the
trip. It was a relief to see evidence that there were good people who believed in James Meredith
and the others who desegregated schools across America. Travelling across the South and
witnessing the pain and suffering of so many people is depressing. You begin to feel the same
desperation as the activists in the movement did years ago. It is almost unbearable, you bend
until you feel like you have broken, and the only thing that keeps you going is little sparks of
hope like the card some stranger sent James Meredith on October 4, 1962.
The Civil Rights Museum in Memphis was a good way to wrap up the trip. I felt like we were
walking back in time through the trip. Both physically and temporally. The Museum brought the
trip back in the front of my mind, and all of the experiences, people, and places of the week filled
the rooms around me. It felt special to be able to say “I went there.” 

Song: In America – John Legend