Securing the funding was done “with great difficulty,” according to Democratic state Sen. John Horhn, who served on the state commission behind the legislation that made the museum a reality.
“I’ve not had in my 21 years being in the [state] Senate an experience where 10 different conference reports were drawn up for presentation to the Senate that were not brought to the floor,'' he said. "It was the 11th time that was the charm.”
To those not steeped in Southern culture and history, the two museums may still appear to be segregated, with the history museum on the left and the civil rights museum on the opposite side. They share an entrance, however, and natives of the Mississippi Delta would argue that the state is taking an honest and genuine approach to bring the races together.
The project, which will cost Mississippi close to $90 million, gives the state an opportunity to start an open discussion, albeit a painful one, about the atrocities that took place there during the civil rights movement. Those include the assassination of Medgar Evers in June 1963 and the murders of three civil rights workers a year later, which led to an investigation the FBI called "Mississippi Burning.''
It’s also an opportunity for the poorest state in the nation to join the growing boom in heritage tourism and to attract visitors from around the world.
“It’s going to mean thousands of people coming to the city, and it's going to mean thousands of people coming to the state and this museum,” said Robert Luckett, a professor of African-American and civil rights history at Jackson State University.
“We look at our sister institutions in Birmingham and in Memphis, and we know people are going to these places and visiting them and making them significant tourist attractions," he said. "So it also has a real economic significance.”