By Janice K. Neal-Vincent
Several key persons met at the famous Woodworth Chapel at Tougaloo College the morning of May 6, to announce a $250,000 donation from AT&T to the Mississippi Department of Archives and History for the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum and the Museum of Mississippi History.
The event acknowledged long-standing contributions of Judge Reuben Anderson, Mississippi Civil Rights Movement Chair and honoree with the naming of the Black Empowerment Gallery inside the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. Anderson is a Tougaloo alumn.
AT&T Mississippi President Mayo Flynt stated, “It is fitting to Judge Anderson, a leader in the Civil Rights Movement, a trailblazer of many firsts in Mississippi, and a living example of this gallery’s story.”
Flynt challenged the gatherers to remember those who labored for racial progress in Mississippi and to celebrate their achievements by thrusting forth racial reconciliation in succeeding generations.
Tougaloo College President Beverly Hogan referred to the two Mississippi Museums’ project as important to the state socially, culturally and economically. Hence, she said, “This project will offer learning opportunities that will expand the historical and civic knowledge so important to the full separation of our children as functioning and contributing citizens in a globalized economy.”
“We are grateful to corporate leaders such as AT&T for giving deference to Judge Anderson, as ‘one of the earliest, strongest and most effective advocates for the Mississippi museums.’” Ditto further noted, “Our success is assured, thanks to dedicated corporate leaders such a AT&T,” said MDAH Board of Trustees President Kane Ditto.
Congressman Bennie Thompson pointed out that the museum is part of the challenge to report the truth as “so many things went on, good and bad.” He said, “So my challenge is when it’s done, it will make folks happy and make them mad when they see it. This milestone is just one of many more to come.”
Daphne Chamberlain, assistant professor of history, said, “Tougaloo served as a safe haven for freedom with the intent of breaking down segregation,” thereby “producing racial, economic, religious, generational lines for conversation.” Chamberlain further stated that the project created an opportunity to educate generations.
Hogan welcomed Chamberlain’s comment when she said, “We’re finding that the younger generation has no knowledge at all about their history.”
Flynt then read a letter written by Randall Stevenson that referenced Anderson’s fight for decades for fair and equal opportunities for all people through optimism, kindness and grace.
In his response to the event, the honoree thanked Gov. William Winter for having served 52 years in civil rights. “Mississippi is spending $90 million for these museums and they will go forth because of the hard work of Winter, Kane Ditto, Bennie Thompson, etc,” Anderson said. “The contribution from AT&T is going to be a big stepping stone for the success of the museum.”
The quarter of a million dollar AT&T check was presented to Hogan to build a better Mississippi for all citizens.
Since construction began on the two museums in 2013, building exterior is in place as well as a public parking garage. Interior construction is projected to be completed by December 2017.