W.K. Kellogg Foundation President and CEO La June Montgomery Tabron delivered the following speech for the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum openings on Saturday, December 9, 2017.
Judge Anderson, thank you for such a kind introduction. This is a monumental occasion for the State of Mississippi and for all of America.
But the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Right Museum occupy a special place in my heart. Years ago my parents, Mary and Herbert Montgomery, left Clarksdale, Mississippi for Detroit. This was not an easy decision for them. They were truly pulling up roots. Roots that began in Mound Bayou, Mississippi. Mound Bayou was founded by former slaves – led by Isaiah T. Montgomery, my ancestor. My family’s blood, sweat and tears were spilled clearing this land and building a resilient community that became home to Medgar Evers, and breeding ground for the Civil Rights movement.
That community flourished. But against the prevailing forces of the time, it could not thrive for long. So despite the strong ties here, my parents moved on to find opportunity and build a future for their children.
Last night, during the tour of the museum, I stood before the Mound Bayou display and thought about my ancestry and all the stories that I have been told about their fight and the enduring desire that they had for freedom, opportunity and justice that shaped their lives.
So these museums are a part of many family stories, just as they are a part of mine. But they also stand as testament to a healing process that is transforming Mississippi. In this place, we acknowledge the histories of the people of Mississippi and the deep resolve to find common ground for the future – a future where communities of freedom, opportunity and justice will thrive.
At the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, we are committed to racial healing and to building vibrant futures for children in Mississippi and across the United States. And that’s why in 2014, we provided $2.3 million to seed the vision of these museums. And we want to make sure that Mississippi’s young people have the opportunity to learn in this place, and continue the healing process however great the challenges. That’s what shaped my life. My family’s stories made me strong.
And so today we celebrate and honor your hard work and dedication to ensure that the children of Mississippi have access to learning from their rich history for generations to come. So I am pleased to announce that the W.K. Kellogg Foundation is providing an additional one million dollar matching grant to the museum’s endowment. Like you, we envision future generations will be inspired by the authentic narratives in these extraordinary exhibits and they will continue the dialogue essential to healing.
Through these museums, Mississippi is showing and leading the way.