The Jim Crow Museum is a museum at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan. Curated by owner David Pilgrim, the Jim Crow Museum is home to the biggest collection of Jim Crow paraphernalia in the country. Among his collections are rare statuettes of blacks with exaggerated red lips, jet black skin and oversized body parts. These items were actually sold and collected during the Jim Crow era. Pilgrim, a sociology professor, has spent decades collecting the items. Each piece tells a story of racism that once thrived through product advertising.
Pilgrim’s collection includes items like mammy saltshakers, Uncle Remus syrups, posters of black men as savages craving white women and the original blackface logo of “Cream of Wheat” brand cereal. There are real KKK robes, vaudeville ads featuring the N-word, and more present-day materials, like one featuring President Obama as a monkey. There are the well known, Southern ‘Whites Only’ signs and other items that illustrate the ‘picinniny’ black children or jezebel stereotype of black women.
Post civil rights, some discriminatory products began to take an international approach, giving the former blackface or mammy symbol dreadlocks for a more Rastafarian look. Those items are also featured in Pilgrim’s Museum.
The Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia was a $1.3 million dollar investment, and features over 9,000 artifacts within its 3,300-square-foot structure.