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Racism museum at Ferris State gets donation of ‘blackface’ photos

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BIG RAPIDS, Mich. - The Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia is expanding their one-of-a-kind collection with more than 100 photographs from David Levinthal’s series ‘Blackface.’

Dr. David Pilgrim, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at Ferris State University, said he’s been collecting racist memorabilia for the better part of a half-century. Dr. Pilgrim has compiled racist ash trays, games and toys, postcards, Aunt Jamima cookie jars and salt shakers; all to help portray how marginalized the African American culture was during the Jim Crow-era.

“What I wanted to do was create a space where people could come and talk intelligently about race and race relations, and that’s what we’ve done,” Dr. Pilgrim said. “If you can name an object, we probably have a racist version of it.”

The museum is growing everyday thanks to donations from around the world. Recently, Dr. Pilgrim was given 135 original large format polaroids of work from David Levinthals series, ‘Blackface.” The one-of-a-kind photographs picture many of the objects currently housed in the museum, a perfect fit for the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia.

Dr. Pilgrim says his space sheds light on the era of segregation and racial hierarchy through objects that society once bought, produced, purchased, and distributed. Sadly, these types of ‘goods’ are sill being produced and sold everyday.

“If there’s a race-based incident that occurs in the U.S., there will be a two- or three-dimensional object created within a week or two,” Dr. Pilgrim said.

In order to appropriately address racism and overcome segregation, Dr. Pilgrim believes we need to fearlessly talk about the issue, hopeful the discussion will spark a change of heart, and enact action throughout our communities.

The highly-anticipated Leventhal collection is coming to the UICA in Grand Rapids, however the exact date has not yet been disclosed. If you can’t make it out to the museum or the traveling display at the UICA, click here for a virtual tour of the Jim Crow Museum. ​

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