The first school for African-Americans opened in 1894 and it was named after Smith Robertson, a slave from Fayette, Alabama. Mr. Robertson was born in 1847 and moved to Jackson, MS after the Civil War. He became a barber and operated a very successful barber shop. Mr. Robertson was active in politics and was the first African-American Alderman in Jackson. The original wood structure that was the school house burned down in 1909 and was immediately replaced with the brick structure visitors can see today. The building received an enlargement in 1929 by an architectural firm and it remained a school until 1971.
The school was closed in 1971 due to integration and was basically abandoned. There were many citizens that didn't want to see the building torn down so they petitioned to save the school. Dr. Jessie Mosley and Dr. Alferdteen Harrison were two of the citizens that were instrumental in saving the school building. Dr. Jessie Mosley became the museum's first director when it opened in 1984.
Richard Wright, an acclaimed writer graduated from Smith Robertson in 1925. He is most well known for his books Native Son and Black Boy, his autobiography.
The mission of the museum is to increase public awareness and understanding of the historical and cultural contributions of people from Africa. An exhibit entitled From Slavery to America depicts the years from 1670 to 1864 in the life of black Mississippians. It chronicles their struggles and achievements. The Hall of Fame showcases pioneers in the political world.
Some of the prominent names include Robert Clark, the first African American to serve in the Mississippi Legislature, elected in 1967. Unita Blackwell was the first African American woman elected as mayor in a Mississippi City; Reuben Anderson became the first to serve on the Mississippi Supreme Court and the Honorable Harvey Johnson, Jr. who was the first African American mayor of a State capitol elected in 1997.
Docents volunteer at the Smith Robertson Museum where they learn about art history, lead tours, assist in museum activities and perform the duties of ambassador for the museum.
Tours at the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center can be scheduled from Monday through Saturday. There are options for a guided tour of just an overview of the museum. Groups of at least ten are needed and school groups must have an adequate number of chaperones. Tours are approximately forty five minutes in length.
A Gift Shop is located within the museum and offers many different items for purchase. African books, masks, t-shirts, paintings, and mugs are available. The Gift Shop is open during the regular museum hours. The Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center is located at 528 Bloom Street, Jackson, MS 39202.
The museum hours are Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Saturday from 10:00 am to 1:00pm and closed on Sunday. The admission is four dollars and fifty cents for adults and $1.50 for children under 18. Senior citizens 62 and older are three dollars.