JACKSON, Miss. The $73 million National Civil Rights Museum will be located on a 9-acre site at Tougaloo College in north Jackson, but not everyone is happy about it.
A commission set up by Gov. Haley Barbour voted 22-9 in favor of the location in March.
Opponents argued that downtown Jackson would be a more viable site for the museum, which is expected to draw 125,000 visitors a year. Along with several other museums and tourist attractions, proponents say downtown Jackson was at the heart of the civil rights movement in Mississippi.
"We've just missed a huge opportunity to set this museum off on the right foot," Jackson City Councilman Leslie McLemore said. "This was just a huge opportunity. We just blew it in the biggest way."
McLemore participated in the Mississippi civil rights movement during the 1960s and said downtown Jackson hosted several significant events, such as the campaign by Freedom Riders, a sit-in at the Woolworth's and the attempted sit-in at the public library.
"That occurred in downtown Jackson right on State Street, right on Capitol Street," McLemore said. "So the battleground for the civil rights movement was downtown Jackson."
Next, the governor will choose a board of directors and the nonprofit museum's fundraising effort will begin.
Barbour has said he wants to limit new bond debt this year. That means there's little chance of any substantial state money anytime soon to move the project forward.
Plans call for a 73,650 square-foot space that will include an interpretive center, theater, classrooms and meeting rooms. The new site is about 10 miles north of downtown Jackson and can be seen from I-55. Kane Ditto, a former Jackson mayor and state representative, said the site is too far from downtown Jackson where there are 25 civil rights sites on a walking tour. He said the civil rights museum would dovetail nicely with new museum projects coming for the Old Capitol building and a state history archive.