David Pilgrim's Blog

David Pilgrim’s TedX Talk: My Racial Journey: Using Hateful Items as Teaching Tools

Sociologist and professor Dr. David Pilgrim tells the story of how he established the Jim Crow Museum–a unique teaching tool to help people gain a new perspective on racism in America. He considers the broader implications of the museum and encourages us to keep having meaningful conversations about race. Dr. David Pilgrim is a dynamic public speaker and one of this country’s leading experts on issues relating to multiculturalism, diversity, and race relations. He has been interviewed by National Public Radio, Time magazine, the British Broadcasting Corporation, and dozens of newspapers, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times. He is best known as the founder and curator of the Jim Crow Museum—a 12,000-piece collection of racist artifacts located at Ferris State University. The museum uses objects of intolerance to teach tolerance and promote social justice. He is the author of Understanding Jim Crow (PM Press, 2015), and Watermelons, Nooses, and Straight Razors (PM Press, 2017). His other writings appear on the museum’s web site (www.ferris.edu/jimcrow). He has delivered lectures at many institutions.

Dr. Pilgrim is an applied sociologist with a doctorate from The Ohio State University. He believes that racism can be objectively studied and creatively assailed. In 2004, he produced the documentary Jim Crow’s Museum to explain his approach to battling racism. The film won several awards including Best Documentary at the 2004 Flint Film Festival. Marc Haefele, a film critic at the Los Angeles Daily News called the documentary, a “grisly low-key masterpiece.” Jim Crow’s Museum is shown nationally on affiliates of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). He created two traveling exhibitions to take the Jim Crow Museum’s lessons to a national audience.

Hateful Things is a 39-unit traveling exhibition of objects found in the Jim Crow Museum. The objects are accompanied by didactic panels that place the images in the proper historical context—offering insight into their past and present popularity—and effects. Hateful Things has traveled to many institutions, including Aquinas College, Delta College, Utah Valley State College, and the Black Holocaust Museum. Dr. Pilgrim, in 2005, created a second traveling exhibition, Them: Images of Separation, a 35-unit exhibition that deals with the stereotyping of women, poor Whites, gays, Jewish Americans, Native Americans, Mexican Americans, African Americans, and Asian Americans—and others. He believes that Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was right when he said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Diversity is more than a black-white issue; more, indeed, than a racial issue. In 2006, Dr. Pilgrim served as a consultant to Will Smith (directorial debut) for the UPN television show, All of Us. Mr. Smith wanted to make sure that the episode—called “The N- Word”—dealt with issues of race and racism in a non-stereotypical fashion. Articulate, accomplished, and passionate, Dr. Pilgrim challenges audiences to think deeply about diversity and race relations. He is a gifted teacher—Ferris State University Distinguished Teacher for 2003—and a dynamic orator known for objective, insightful analysis—and a biting sense of humor. He is a wonderful storyteller. Dr. Pilgrim has spent his adult life using objects of intolerance to teach tolerance. It works. No audience is left unmoved. His goal is to get people talking about diversity and race relations in meaningful ways—and, then, to go and do something positive. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx

Buy Understanding Jim Crow: Using Racist Memorabilia to Teach Tolerance and Promote Social Justice

Buy Watermelons, Nooses, and Straight Razors: Stories from the Jim Crow Museum

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