Civil Rights Museum
Posted: Jan 14, 2019
Ralph Mark Gilbert Museum is named after the founder of Savannah’s modern civil rights movement. Gilbert first arrived at Savannah as a pastor before taking the front position in fighting for the African American. For instance, he challenged Georgia’s all-white primaries in Savannah and immediately launched a citywide black voter registration drive which saw hundred of blacks being registered. The challenge pushed for the election of a reform-minded mayor who then integrated African Americans as policemen and city employees. The vision of the museum is to give the public a glimpse of the struggle for the African-American civil rights. The museum was first constructed to be an African American bank in 1914. Later, the building served as an insurance company before being turned into a museum.
I love the museum because it carries a rich history of the culture that is tied to the history of the Savannah. In fact, it is one the must-go-see places for any tourists visiting Savannah. The museum appears simplistic, but once I stepped foot into the building, I was impressed. The guides in the museum are articulate and well informed of all the exhibits presented in the museums. I also found the exhibits to be engaging and highly interactive. A tour of the museum gives a person a firsthand account of the history of Savannah (Elmore, 2012). However, I did not like that there is an admission fee. I felt that for a museum that carries a rich history of the city of Savannah, the information should be freely delivered to any interested public. However, I also appreciate the need for a fee so that the museum can sustain itself. Overall, the museum is education and fun and thus an ideal visiting place for schools, family or anyone touring the region.
There are numerous exhibits that are available at the museum. There is an optical map that details 87 most significant locales and events. The fiber optic map gives a detailed account of the struggle of the African American community to be recognized in Savannah. The optic map details the struggled for civil rights from the time the civil rights movement began. The map details events such as the Savannah protest movement where men and women participated in demonstrations to speak against racial discrimination. The map also tells of the citywide boycott of businesses to request the government to repeal segregation. The map also takes viewers through the successes achieves through the demonstration and sit-ins. Although many protestors were arrested and jailed, the protests were a success as segregation of facilities for whites and blacks was abolished. The abolition of segregation was a success for the black community that was treated as a second class citizen in critical sectors including education.
The museum also exhibits the Levy lunch counter. The exhibit tells the story of three black students from Savannah University who took seats at the lunch counter ad levy’s department store in downtown Savannah. The three were arrested and jailed soon after. The store was exclusively serving the white community, and the black community was against the obvious racisms of the store. The sit-in became an event as more Africans volunteers to participate in them. The staff at the store refused to serve the blacks who came and sat and at the counter as the white community insisted that the "nigger dogs" be removed. When the white community became aggressive towards the blacks, the police did nothing to intervene. In fact, the police were quick to point out that black students were violating the anti-trespassing law (Marlowe, & Davis, 2013). The replica of the lunch counter gives visitors a surreal experience as one can almost visualize the students trying to make a statement against racism in a white environment.
The museum also has films that provide viewers with an experience of witnessing first-hand accounts of activist and protestors involved in various historical civil rights movements. The film takes viewers to the actual event as activists give firsthand account of what happened. It leaves viewers with a sense of appreciation of what the activists achieved. Viewers appreciate how far savanna has come and though the accounts of the activist, viewers appreciate the sense of equality that exists in Savannah. The blacks and white separation were eliminated, and today blacks and white interact in all sectors. The films serve as a reminder of a history that many would love to forget but should not since it serves as the history of the city. Activist such as Carolyn Quilloin, Ernest Robinson, and Joan Tyson tell of their experience at department stores (Elmore, 2012). The use of activists takes viewers to the store and reveals the insults that they received as they sat at the store. First-hand accounts are critical as the give viewers more detail than a report of an event.
Elmore, C. (2012). Savannah, Georgia. Arcadia Publishing.
Marlowe, J. & Davis, T. (2013). I am Troy Davis. Haymarket Books.
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