GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Ferris State University has announced it has received a $10,000 donation to expand its Jim Crow Museum.
According to a news release, Matthew Nawrocki, an FSU alumnus and member of The Ferris Foundation’s Board of Directors, made the donation last week hoping to inspire more support from the community.
Nawrocki, who graduated from Ferris’ College of Engineering Technology in 1995, visited the museum while touring campus last year.
“It is a profound and shocking museum. It is both enlightening and horrific. It is both breathtaking and heart-stopping,” Nawrocki said in a release. “To me, it was a light shined upon a dark period. When things are brought to light from darkness, I believe it then is given an opportunity for acknowledging, understanding, educating, forgiving and healing.”
The Jim Crow Museum is fueled by its curator, David Pilgrim, a professor of sociology at Ferris State.
“I hope that Matt Nawrocki knows how much his gift means to me and to everyone working to build a new Jim Crow Museum,” Pilgrim said in a release. “His generosity brings us closer to building what will be one of the outstanding museums in the nation. A place where people come to have intelligent and nuanced discussions about race relations.”
Pilgrim has collected racist items for decades and used them as teaching tools to show younger generations how pervasive and damaging these caricatures were in America.
“We examine the historical patterns of race relations and the origins and consequences of racist depictions. The aim is to engage visitors in open and honest dialogues about the country’s racial history,” Pilgrim said about the museum. “We are not afraid to talk about race and racism; we are afraid not to.”
The museum currently houses Pilgrim’s extensive collection. The new museum space is scheduled to be ready in 2025 and will include three new exhibits, including ones focused on the Civil Rights Movement, the accomplishments of Black scholars, inventors and artists who succeeded despite living under Jim Crow laws, and a mural dedicated to civil rights martyrs.
“We also plan to enlarge photographs of blacks being ‘regular’ people: eating, walking, studying or simply living,” Pilgrim said. “These poster-sized images will be placed near the caricatured objects so that visitors remember the thousands of objects that denigrate blacks are distortions, mean-spirited exaggerations.”
The Jim Crow Museum is free and open to the public from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Virtual tours are also available through the museum’s website.