Thousands of people from across the state and nation will travel to Jackson to celebrate Mississippi’s bicentennial at the grand opening of the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum on Saturday, December 9. A program featuring live music and remarks by project partners, elected officials, and local and national civil rights figures will begin at 11 a.m. on the Entergy Plaza, with a ribbon-cutting and tours of the museums to follow. Speakers include Governor Phil Bryant, civil rights leader and Georgia Congressman John Lewis, former governors Haley Barbour and William Winter, and former NAACP chair Myrlie Evers.
“We are so excited that the day is nearly here when we can share these world-class museums with the public,” said MDAH director Katie Blount. “All Mississippians can be proud of these two museums, and their statewide impact—both educational and economic—will be immediate and lasting.”
All tickets for opening weekend entry to the museums have been claimed, with the first going to supporters who purchased charter memberships during the summer. “To ensure as many people as possible could experience the museums at the grand opening, we made available free tickets with admission at set times throughout Saturday and Sunday,” said Blount. “Within two days, all six thousand tickets were gone.”
Tickets are not needed to attend the opening day program. Free parking will be available at the Mississippi State Fairgrounds, and seating will begin at 10 a.m. on a first-come, first-served basis.
The Mississippi Girlchoir and Utica Jubilee Singers will kick off the opening ceremony at 11 a.m., and the Madison Central High School Brass Quintet will perform an original fanfare composed by the award-winning James Sclater for the state’s bicentennial. Following remarks from program participants, a Bicentennial Choir featuring more than one hundred members of church and school choirs under the direction of Cynthia Goodloe Palmer will perform “This Little Light of Mine.”
Live music performances highlighting Mississippi artists will continue throughout the afternoon, beginning at 1 p.m. with Heart Society featuring Teneia Sanders-Eichelberger and Ben Eichelberger. At 2:30 p.m., Grammy-nominated gospel singer Doug Williams will take the stage, followed at 4 p.m. by Greenville native Steve Azar and the Kings Men—a group of all-star musicians who played with B.B. King, Elvis Presley, and other musical “kings.”
North Street will be closed to vehicles, and food trucks will be in place throughout the day.
Other museums and historic sites in downtown Jackson will be celebrating the bicentennial during the museums’ grand opening, and free transportation will be available throughout the day to and from those sites.
The Mississippi Museum of Art will premiere its bicentennial exhibition “Picturing Mississippi, 1817–2017; Land of Plenty, Pain, and Promise,” a landmark investigation of Mississippi’s identity through art. The exhibition will feature masterpieces by artists seldom exhibited in the state, including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Thomas Hart Benton, and Andy Warhol—as well as works by native Mississippians. Admission to the museum is free, and there will be guided tours of the exhibition at 10:30 a.m. and 1 and 3:30 p.m.
Capitol Street will close to vehicles from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the “Mississippi Mile”—the largest pop-up, open air gallery in the U.S. Artists and craftspeople will have booths up and down the street with goods for sale, and some two hundred large-scale images will be showcased in the windows of storefronts from State Street to Mill Street. These photographs were produced earlier this year in Mississippi communities as part of Blue Magnolia Films’ “Celebrating Storytellers” project.
Jackson’s oldest building, the Old Capitol Museum, will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The circa-1841 Mississippi Governor’s Mansion will be open from 1 to 3 p.m. for self-guided tours, and the Mississippi State Capitol will be open for tours from 1 to 5 p.m. Smith-Robertson Museum and Cultural Center will be open from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. free of charge.
The Mississippi Legislature provided $90 million for the museums. Another $19 million has been raised through private donations for exhibits and endowments. The two museums share a lobby, auditorium, classrooms, collection storage, and exhibit workshop for a facility that covers a total of 200,000 square feet—the equivalent of three and a half football fields.
Visitors to the Museum of Mississippi History will learn the story of Mississippi over the past 15,000 years. Eight galleries featuring interactive exhibits cover every aspect of the state’s history through more than 1,600 artifacts that range from 3,500-year-old Native American soapstone bowls to Civil War battle flags to a stage outfit worn by native son Ike Turner.
The eight galleries at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum focus on the years 1945–1976, when Mississippi was ground zero for the national Civil Rights Movement. The galleries encircle a central space called “This Little Light of Mine.” There, a dramatic sculpture glows brighter and the music of the Movement grows louder as visitors gather.
After opening weekend, the museums will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Regular admission costs will be $8 for either museum or $12 for a ticket to both museums, with discounts for students, senior citizens, and groups.
Annual memberships begin at $45 for individuals and include year-long free admission in both museums and a 10% discount in the Mississippi Museum Store. Family memberships cover two named family-members plus three additional passes for year-long free admission into the museums along with a 10% Mississippi Museum Store discount. For more information visit give2mississippimuseums.com.