Understanding Jim Crow: A Review in CHOICE

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

By F.W. Bleach
June 2016

Sociologist Pilgrim (Ferris State Univ.) takes on some of the most potentially offensive objects from US history in order to, as the subtitle indicates, “teach tolerance and promote social justice.”  Richly illustrated in full color, this is not a book that most people would want to leave lying around for acquaintances to stumble across.  The objects, from the collections of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia assembled by Pilgrim at Ferris State University, were produced over the past 150 years to appeal to racist attitudes, and thus depict African Americans in grotesquely stereotypical ways.  But Pilgrim’s narrative takes these objects and the histories behind them as things to be remembered and learned from.  He draws on lived experience and social theory, but whether writing about “Visual Thinking Strategies” (a pedagogical tool), the auction of a Klan robe, the history of Jim Crow, or the stereotypes themselves (like “flawed women” and “dangerous men”), the writing is conversational and straightforward.  Pilgrim draws the reader along in considering these difficult objects and histories with as little inflammation as possible.  An amazing, wonderful, and important book whose objects and images may offend some readers.

Back to David Pilgrim’s Author Page