The Mississippi Department of Archives and History has received a $500,000 donation from Nissan for the 2 Mississippi Museums project. The gift will sponsor the “I Question America” gallery in the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the dining room shared by the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.
The announcement was made April 27 from the Nissan Vehicle Assembly Plant in Canton.
“This project seeks to tell the full story of Mississippi’s past while also magnifying hopes for the future,” said Jeffrey Webster, director of Diversity and Inclusion for Nissan North America. “This contribution continues Nissan’s commitment to diversity, education and service in our community.”
Together with its more than 6,000 employees, Nissan has provided more than $11 million in charitable donations since it began operations in Mississippi in 2003. As an economic and civic leader in Mississippi, Nissan has supported organizations that help serve local community including Habitat for Humanity, Mississippi Food Network, Community Stewpot, Our Daily Bread, United Way, area school districts and colleges, Boys and Girls Clubs, 100 Black Men, Mississippi Children’s Museum, Mission Mississippi, the Natural Science Museum, and the Nature Conservancy.
“This gift is an investment in the future of Mississippi that symbolizes the unity that these two museums are going to promote,” said William F. Winter, governor of Mississippi 1980-84 and member of the board of directors of the Foundation for Mississippi History. “Think about these buildings as two world-class schoolhouses where we are going to have the opportunity to teach succeeding generations of people, not just in Mississippi but across the country and around the world, what has gone before to establish the kind of society that we have today.”
“The 2 Mississippi Museums are a world-class project, and Nissan is a world-class manufacturer,” said state senator John Horhn. “We welcome Nissan as our partner in telling this important story—and telling it honestly and forthrightly.”
“We’re proud of Nissan’s commitment to our history and our culture,” said Ronnie Musgrove, governor of Mississippi 2000-04. “Our state is a better state thanks to Nissan’s coming to Mississippi.”
The “I Question America” space will focus on the pivotal years of 1963 and 1964 when Mississippi witnessed widespread voter registration campaigns and direct actions in communities across the state. The gallery’s name is taken from Fannie Lou Hamer’s famous statement at the Democratic National Party convention in Atlantic City, “If the Freedom Democratic Party is not seated now I question America. Is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, where we have to sleep with our telephones off of the hook because our lives be threatened daily, because we want to live as decent human beings in America?”
The public dining area will be developed for use by the daily visitors to the museums and include a catering kitchen equipped for special events in the complex.
In 2011 Governor Haley Barbour worked with the Mississippi Legislature to begin funding the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. The Legislature has committed $74 million in bond funds for construction and exhibits for the 2 Mississippi Museums. The Legislature required a dollar-for-dollar match for the exhibits. The Foundation for Mississippi History and the Foundation for the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum committed to raising $16 million—$12 million for exhibits and $4 million for endowments for the museums. The Foundations are on track to meet that goal. MDAH will seek additional public funds in 2016 to complete the exhibits and furnish the building.
Since construction began in December 2013, all interior floors have been completed, work on the roof is nearly finished, and installation of the limestone façade has begun. Phase one includes the construction of a public parking garage and is expected to be completed in summer 2015. Phase two, interior construction, will last 18 months. The museums are scheduled to open in December 2017 as the centerpiece of the state’s bicentennial celebration.