Mississippi Distilled: Prohibition, Piety, and Politics, an immersive exhibition exploring the state’s tumultuous relationship with alcohol from the colonial period to today, opens Tuesday, July 7. The exhibit is on display at the Two Mississippi Museums—the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum—in Jackson.
“Prohibition in Mississippi was about more than outlawing alcohol,” said Pamela D.C. Junior, director of the Two Mississippi Museums. “This amazing exhibit shows how women’s rights, alcohol, and religion came together at a critical moment in history and continue to impact Mississippi to this day.”
Fascinating artifacts, enticing stories, and surprising images from prehistory to Prohibition will take visitors on a journey that begins with ancient alcohols and the science of spirits through the social problems that led to the temperance movement and its role in efforts to expand voting rights for women but not African Americans, end lynching, enact child labor laws, and prevent domestic violence.
Visitors will walk through a saloon façade to learn about unregulated alcohol in the Mississippi Territory. Artifacts from religious organizations help tell the story of alcohol in sacred rites. Medicines and original nineteenth-century prescriptions document how whiskey was used to treat everything from the common cold to heart disease and diabetes.
After the wide-spread use of alcohol during early statehood, Mississippians began to fight against alcohol and the social problems it helped fuel. The stories of Carrie Belle Kearney and Bishop C. B. Galloway explore the complex motivations behind temperance.
In 1908, Mississippi passed statewide prohibition—twelve years before National Prohibition became law. The Wettest Dry State gallery depicts the next fifty-eight years in a state where alcohol was supposedly banned and features stories of moonshiners, blues players, bootleggers, law makers, gamblers, and enforcement officers. Highlights include a moonshine still confiscated by the Leflore County Sheriff’s Department and video of alcohol raids and barrel breaking.
The gallery spotlights illegal alcohol at the white-collar resorts of the Gulf Coast and the strip of nightclubs known as the Gold Coast or ’Cross the River in Rankin County, ending with the infamous Jackson Country Club Raid of 1966 and the political changes that led to Prohibition’s repeal.
Mississippi Distilled closes with local option elections that keep Prohibition alive in many Mississippi counties. Stories of the alcohol industry—including some of the state’s oldest breweries, distilleries, and distribution companies—round out the exhibition. Visitors will be invited to share their own memories of a dry Mississippi.
This exhibit will run December 2020, in the FedEx and Medgar and Myrlie Evers Exhibition Halls at the Two Mississippi Museums and is made possible with the support of Southern Beverage Company, Inc.
Mississippi Distilled is included in general admission to the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Museum, which are $15 for adults and $8 for children. Discounts are available for children under three, students, seniors, active duty and military veterans, and groups of ten or more. Due to safety precautions for COVID-19, the maximum number of people per group is twenty. Groups must follow social distancing guidelines and remain six feet apart from all guests, including each other.
Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Mississippi Distilled media kit is available at http://www.mdah.ms.gov/new/about/newsroom/media-and-press/.