Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s request for the legislature to move ahead with establishing a state civil museum is a good one. The question is how to pay for it?
The state, unlike Alabama and Tennessee, has no major civil rights museum to commemorate a significant, albeit tragic and unfortunate, period of the state’s history.
Tourists flock to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis and to many sites along the Alabama Civil Rights Trail to learn more about the movement that is an important part of our nation’s history.
In 2007 Mississippi lawmakers authorized a museum, but no money was appropriated. In addition to a lack of funding, a dispute developed over whether it should be located at Tougaloo College or in downtown Jackson. At the time, the governor suggested it could be built from private donations.
In his State of the State address, the governor recommended building it next to the planned Museum of Mississippi History, but offered no plan for paying for it.
Perhaps, it’s just coincidence that the push to get the project moving comes only three weeks after Barbour stumbled badly on the national stage by making complimentary remarks about the segregationist White Citizens’ Councils. Barbour later backtracked on his remarks, but the incident is viewed as having hurt his thinly veiled presidential ambitions.
Yes, the museum is a good idea; one should have been built years ago. But unless the governor intends to use his personal, private fundraising skills to make it happen, we see his remarks as somewhat hollow given the state’s current financial situation.