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Golliwogs and Other Things

***The staff of the Jim Crow Museum receives dozens of letters and emails. Some of these communiques offer insight into race relations -- historically and in the present. While some are hateful, we have decided to share some of these letters and emails with our Internet visitors.***

I have visited the Jim Crow Museum site and am completely amazed at what I have read there. What a gift you have given in providing information never before addressed anywhere. For example, I was under the impression that Golliwog dolls were benign and were based on children's books which I (stupidly) thought were something other than what they have turned out to be! In fact, a few years ago, I had ordered one of these dolls from England, not having an awareness of their pejorative intent.

While I'm on the subject of true confessions, I'll have to say that I collected a pair of salt and pepper shakers, like the very Mammy one that you broke. I thought they were "cute."

Having lived in the north most of my life, and out west for only four years or so, when I was in my twenties, I have not seen the ugly side of prejudice. Before now, there have been virtually few African-Americans living in New Hampshire. Recently, we have had an influx of real Africans who are being assisted by church groups in establishing a new life here.

I wonder how much of what parades as bigotry is not based on malice after all but in a lack of awareness on the part of white folks, like me.

So far, I have only had time to read two of your essays - about Golliwogs, and why you collect rascist objects. What you have said comes through loud and clear. Material objects which depict your people have been and are a source of real psychological hurt and pain for you, and you have struggled and succeeded in establishing yourself as a credentialed professor, in spite of any obstacles, some of which you note.

Thank you for sharing your experiences in a poignant and graphic way. I am certainly much more cognizant of the greater implications of certain material objects and the ways in which they could influence thinking. I don't blame you for wanting to get the collection out of your home and away from small children. I hope that now that they are older, they will realize all of your accomplishments, including your ongoing work to spread knowledge of the Black Experience in America.

I wish you a fine day,

Patricia Cummings
-- Feb. 17, 2006