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April 17, 2024

Mound Bayou Museum Update

Plans in the works to purchase additional property

By Jack Criss, The Bolivar Bullet

The Mound Bayou Museum Of African-American Culture And History, which opened in July, 2021, is on the national radar these days – in a big and inspirational way.

“We’re actually outgrowing our current space at such a fast pace that we’re looking to purchase the area surrounding the museum in order to build out.”That’s how well things have been going for the museum over the past year according to CEO, Darryl Johnson. 

Along with his brother, museum executive director Hermon Johnson, the two have overseen not only the growth of the museum dedicated to the civil rights legacy of the storied town where it is housed, but also the addition of an important new display.

“MGM Studios donated many items from the movie ‘Till’ about Emmett Till’s life and death,” said Johnson, “and we have a display devoted exclusively to it which we received just over the last year. It includes clothing and jewelry worn by actors in the movie along with new photos of the making of the film and of Emmett Till himself, as well. It has taken up one complete side of the museum and has become a very big draw,” he said.

Johnson added that MGM had specific pieces made just for the museum and sent representatives from California to deliver them to Mound Bayou.

“They told us they wanted to remake the whole room, and they did,” said Johnson.

Other noteworthy displays at the museum include the Dr. Alvin Simpson collection called “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” as well as a display of costumes and pieces from the Jay-Z and Will Smith produced ABC television series, “Women Of The Movement.”

“Because of displays such as these, we are hosting visitors from all over the nation and also from all over the world: Ukraine, Sweden, Germany, Japan – just to name a few,” said Johnson. “And just recently during spring break, for example, I hosted a group of students from Notre Dame University and Virginia Tech and that’s not unusual at all for us now. A lot of colleges and universities are making us a destination site due to the increase of African-American studies departments across the country. And because of our history here Mound Bayou was, and is, such a beacon for the Civil Rights movement.

“Student groups are coming in on a regular basis as are droves of individual tourists,” said Johnson. “We’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response the museum has received. It’s now become known as a true destination site for those interested in Civil Rights history as well as the history of Mound Bayou as a sanctuary city during the height of that era.

“It’s hard for us to even go to lunch some days,” said Johnson. “People are coming in all of the time, at all hours. And, of course, we love having them here. We even had a group of older ladies come in not long ago for one of their friend’s birthdays. And since I also own a flower shop here in town, I brought her balloons and flowers and even sang to her!” he laughed. 

More information on the Mound Bayou Museum – including hours of operation and scheduling tours – may be found at moundbayoumuseum.org which can allow people from all over the world to contact Johnson and his brother. The museum is located at 200 Roosevelt St. in Mound Bayou.