All three presentations are visually strong, critically sharp, and thematically intertwined. But it’s the Civil Rights Museum that rivets attention. Its time frame — roughly 30 years between World War II and the mid-1970s — is narrow compared with that of the Mississippi history museum, or the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington. But concentration is a plus. It makes the Jackson museum’s energy feel combustive. So does the fact that, to a startling degree, and despite being a state-sponsored institution, the museum refuses to sugarcoat history.
And, finally, Jackson, a primary scene of that history, is the right place, karma-wise, for the telling of the history to unfold, as it does through a series of tight, lowlighted galleries packed floor to ceiling with photographs, texts, films and recordings. The material is magnetic. I had intended to make an initial fast sweep, then double back for a closer look. But an hour after starting I was still only halfway through my preliminary tour.