Racist Imagery from Coon Chicken Inn

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Visitor Response: "How real were the emotions"

The Hateful Things exhibit was by far my favorite part of our trip. The reason being is that it displays the ways in which a group of people for viewed and judged by another with sources and visual aids. Sure, the racism that we learn in school covers the Jim Crow laws, segregation, ect. but what that racism does not cover is the reality of it all. It was not until that I saw these pictures, artifacts and read the stories that it hit me: these things actually happened. They are not made up stories to reenact the harsh treatments back then, they are real. And how real were the emotions and chills that ran down my spine when I saw some very unforgettable pictures. I believe that this exhibit is one that one must visit, and more than once is even better.


Han Nguyen 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Another great response

I actually find this exhibit fascinating. I know that is racist and extremely offensive, and I don’t agree with its message at all, but I am really interested with what this strange restaurant/inn is all about. Just how much racism was acceptable back then?  If blacks were disliked, why make one your mascot? Why go so far with the idea and make such a big deal out of it? This image make me interested in what exactly the owners of this building were thinking when they decided to do this. I would also like to ask people from this time if this was a place that they would eat at. With all the teaching about racism and that time period in American history in schools, I still didn’t know racism was even used in marketing, and I especially didn’t expect it to be. Overall, this was an eyeopening experiance for me, and I think this exhibit should be seen by more people.

Antonio Arrendol

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Visitor Comment

Hateful Things is an exhibit to remember.  While most museums fill their spaces with dated artifacts and long explanations of historical details, Hateful Things manages to reach visitors on a deeper level.  It may shock you, disgust you, and overwhelm you.  Be prepared to leave speechless and with more questions than when you first arrived.  After this exhibit, I was not able to walk down the street or view a modern advertisement without questioning what I had ever assumed about race relations.  I could tour hundreds of exhibits and read countless books but I will still never be able to forget this particular display.  By taking the time to visit Hateful Things, you will open your eyes to view an undercurrent of your world that has been taking form right beneath the surface of your daily surroundings.  Be forewarned: This exhibit may change your life.  

Best wishes,
Crista Anderson

Friday, April 6, 2012

Reaction from a visitor

We've received a thoughtful review of our exhibit from a member of the public-- do you agree with her assessment of the exhibit? Have you come to see it yet?

I found  the exhibit "Race. Rage and Redemption"-"Hateful Things" to be  interesting, yet bothersome most in terms of curatorial possibilities and responsibility. The exhibit has the potential to draw constructive dialogue, however there is missing curatorial description regarding the source of the collectible items and the "mission" of the collection.  Certainly having a collection with the racist memorabilia in it is potentially valuable for dialogue, the public would profit from explanation at front door of exhibit- describing what forces spawned the collection- who collected it- and the mission statement of the exhibit including Mark Twain description to the left.  Many of us have not heard of Ferris State University and do not know where it is located or the specific history of this collection.  Was the purpose of the collector to collect racially based propaganda items for entertainment or was there a purpose in his/her collection???   I suspect so, however a description of the intent of the collector needs to be stated.  You might also profit from having informed "docent" tour of the exhibit to underline purpose of the exhibit.  Otherwise the collectibles immediately yield a visceral recollection of the Jim Crowe days without hosting constructive dialogue. 

Jim Crow remains in our society in some ways.  There are curatorial narratives missing in terms of the origin of collection,  purpose of collection, and purpose the exhibit.  When people enter the exhibit I  also advise the staff not to say "enjoy the exhibit."  There is a little irony in that phrase.  Perhaps saying..."" hope you find the exhibit to be worthwhile". .. or "I hope that you find the exhibit to be thought provoking."  What do staff members  say to people entering the Holocaust Museum???  There are odd sensitivities that  pop up left and right to detract from constructive efforts.... Again you need better curatorial narrative re mission of exhibit and perhaps docent presentation regarding the exhibit and its purpose.... You are inviting  incendiary responses from the lack of curatorial explanation..  I know what your purpose is... but many viewers will not...

Good luck.  I will try to attend some of the other events related to "Race, Rage and Redemption."  We find ourselves at a very tender time in terms of race relations.... while progress has been made.... 
there remain to be many unhealed wounds that continue to have salt pored into them with the poor economy and subtle yet strong underlying remnants of Jim Crow.  

Martha Drummond

The Huffington Post

Two weeks ago, our Education Director Craig Hotchkiss published an article on the Huffington Post about "Why We are Displaying Hateful Things." The article spurred an interesting discussion in the comments.

It's worth a look.

Here's a sample:

I read as much of Twain as my time allows and have come to treasure his wonderful condemnation of the evils of racial thinking--the things we shallowly lump as "racism." Facts, not a propaganda war, will lessen the vile racism that still percolates in our country, and, as a liberal, I despise hiding realities. As Balzac noted, "Hypocrisy are the manners of a nation." Let us be unmannerly--and real. Let us read Twain and see the destruction he wreaks on the racist reader.

Mark Twain, Samuel Clemmons, was a product of his times. Like many of that age, he wasn't enlightened to our current standards, but was very enlightened for his time. Twain may have been raised a racist, but was able to break free of those ideas.

Yes, some of those thoughts would be considered racist now. It should be noted that many abolishionists, including Wilburforce to some degree, fought for freedom from slavery, but still believed that blacks were still less than whites and shouldn't mix with society.

If Twain had lived into today's world, or transported to this time, he'd have adapted and embraced, as a person willing to be enlightened. So would have Wilburforce.

Apparently there are more slaves now, in this enlightened world, than there were in the 1830s when slavery was outlawed in the UK. Then they cost a fair bit and were kept alive, now they cost almost nothing because they are normally economic emigrants, and when their sexual usefulness runs out after a few years, they are disposed of. 

Twain (Clemens) was always quick to adopt the correct moral position. He initially fought in the Civil War and quickly abandoned that as a nonsense idea. He went to Nevada with his brother and quickly figured out how to join in on the mining, and then quickly left that realizing the futility that many miners had in succeeding. He was quick to jump on the opportunity to travel to the Sandwich Islands (Hawai'i) and used that trip and experience as his first lecture talk in San Francisco. He was also quick in realizing the morally wrongness of slavery and racism, not just against blacks, but against the native indians and the chinese. Read his short story, "A True Story" to learn how he developed compassion for the blacks. Experiences like that changes some people, but only those who are willing to be changed.

A very interesting article, Craig!!! I have always loved Huckleberry Finn -- a great book -- and a wonderfuil mirror of the times! Hnmm, I might question your statement about Twain being born a racist, in that he was born in a time when owning Blacks was no big deal, and after all, who else would there be to work the crops? The above sentence does not make it all right, but that was the thinking of the time, just like treating women like baby factories seems to some to be the thinking of today.

Review of Race, Rage, & Redemption in "The Day"

We woke up this morning to this lovely review in The Day. 

Here's what writer Rick Koster had to say:

"Depending on one's Twain scholarship, the material in "Heart & Conscience" can be enlightening and reassuring - or there might be an aspect to it where it can a bit defensive. This is the Twain House & Museum, though, so it's expected that such an exhibition would want to go to every length to explain the author's early-life prejudices and point out the expansive nature of his eventual beliefs and efforts.

In any scenario, though, "Rage, Race & Redemption" is a dramatically effective installation that serves as a cautionary reminder from another substantial American writer, William Fauklner: "The past isn't dead and buried. It isn't even past."

And Mr. Koster also found Chris Rock's meditations on racial slurs to be fascinating:

"Another wall is devoted to modern African American writers and artists, each attesting to Twain's contributions to race relations. Langston Hughes, Ralph Ellison, Richard Pryor and Toni Morrison are all represented with quotes - including one of the most intriguing N-word comments I've ever seen, from Chris Rock:"We took this word and made it into poetry ... in the wrong hands it can hurt ... if you give it to the right scientist (Dave Chappelle, Ice Cube, Eddie Murphy) ... what they did ... what NWA and Richard Pryor did, it's art, it's Mark Twain.""

Thank you for the thoughtful review, Rick!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Hateful Things" Opening

Thanks to everyone who came to our amazing opening of Race, Rage, and Redemption and Hateful Things. Did you see the exhibit? What were your reactions?

Email them to craig.hotchkiss@marktwainhouse.org and we'll put them up on this site.

-- The Mark Twain House & Museum