Southern Discomfort: Jackson State Lynching Exhibit Seeks to Engage Campus, Community in Dialogue about History

By Booker, Keonya | Black Issues in Higher Education, June 3, 2004 | Go to article overview

Southern Discomfort: Jackson State Lynching Exhibit Seeks to Engage Campus, Community in Dialogue about History


Booker, Keonya, Black Issues in Higher Education


JACKSON, Miss.

Members of Jackson State University's campus and greater Mississippi community are attempting to enlighten and educate one another about an appalling time in Black history and, subsequently, ensure such a horrendous history does not recur.

"Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America," a collection of powerful, graphic images of lynchings from the late 1800s until the late 1960s, is currently on display at the historically Black university. The photos paint a harrowing picture of extreme social injustice and hate experienced by Blacks from the end of the Civil War until the end of the organized civil rights movement of the mid-20th century. It is a reminder of the struggles Blacks have faced and continue to confront moving into the 21st century.

The collection has a peculiar resonance in Mississippi, which is traditionally regarded as a hotbed of racial discrimination and violence in the 1960s, and associated with painful images of the murders of activist Medgar Evers, teenager Emmett Till and three civil rights workers.

"'Mississippi is infamous with the worst reputation for civil injustices and racial violence against African Americans. If seen anywhere in the world, "Without Sanctuary" needed to be seen in Mississippi," says Dr. Monique Guillory, who works in Jackson State's Office of the President and who assisted in the planning of the exhibit.

According to the exhibit's planning committee, which included Jackson State faculty and staff, members of the governor's office and media representatives, the primary vision of "Without Sanctuary" is to underscore the terror and fear of this brutal, historical period. The committee also hoped to provide an opportunity for people to discuss and converse about these images and the linger impact they have had on the Black community.

"The objective was to have a dialogue along with the exhibition--a space where people could talk honestly and candidly. So far, there is no public acknowledgement or discussion about the wrongs against African Americans," Guillory says.

In addition to the extensive compilation of lynching photos, "Without Sanctuary" is a part of a larger experience that includes a film series, panel discussions and town hall meetings. Over the past few months, representatives from local media outlets have participated in several group discussions and community meetings. Panel sessions also have featured descendants of anti-lynching crusader Ida B. Wells, prominent community leaders and activists, as well as James Allen, the owner of the collection. …

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