David Pilgrim

David Pilgrim

Scholar, Writer, Diversity Educator and Founder of the Jim Crow Museum



David Pilgrim, PhD, is the founder and Director of the Jim Crow Museum, the nation’s largest, publicly accessible collection of racist objects, located at Ferris State University where he serves as Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion. Dr. Pilgrim is also the author of Understanding Jim Crow: Using Racist Memorabilia to Teach Tolerance and Promote Social Justice (PM Press, 2015). The book explains the museum’s vision and work, where the objects are used as tools to teach about race, race relations, and racism. His goal is to get people talking about race relations and inclusion in meaningful ways and then, to go and do something positive.

Pilgrim’s countless writings, many found at the Jim Crow Museum website, www.ferris.edu/jimcrow, are used by scholars, students, and civil rights and human rights workers to better understand historical and contemporary expressions of racism. His writings, scholarly and creative, deal with multiculturalism and race relations. His short stories have been published in Calaloo, Obsidian, African American Review, Aim, and Shooting Star.

Pilgrim has been invited to deliver public lectures at dozens of institutions throughout the United States and Canada, challenging audiences to think deeply about diversity, inclusion, and race relations. Most recently, he also presented at NCORE - the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education.

In 2004, Pilgrim produced, with Clayton Rye, the documentary Jim Crow's Museum to explain his approach to battling racism. The film won several awards including Best Documentary at the 2004 Flint Film Festival. Jim Crow's Museum has shown nationally on PBS affiliates including as part of the series The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross. He also served as a consultant to Will Smith on UPN’s All of Us.

Pilgrim and Carrie Weis, a Ferris State colleague, created two traveling exhibitions to take the Jim Crow Museum's lessons to a national audience. Hateful Things is a 39-piece traveling exhibition of objects found in the Jim Crow Museum. The objects are accompanied by didactic panels that place the images in a proper historical context—offering insight into their past and present popularity.

Them: Images of Separation, a 35-piece exhibition, deals with the stereotyping of women, poor whites, gays, Jewish Americans, Native Americans, Mexican Americans, African Americans, and Asian Americans—and others. Pilgrim believes that Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was right when he said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

Dr. Pilgrim, an applied sociologist with a doctorate from The Ohio State University, is a Ferris State University Distinguished Teacher. He has been interviewed by National Public Radio, Time magazine, the British Broadcasting Corporation, and dozens of newspapers, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times.

  Topic Areas

African Americans/Black
Professional Development
Race/Racial Justice/Racism
U.S. History
High School Programs

  Related Links


The Jim Crow Museum


Jim Crow Museum Aims to Teach Tolerance


2022 Schleg Lecture with Dr. David Pilgrim

One of the most important contributions to the study of American history that I have ever experienced.
Henry Louis Gates Jr. director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African American Research

Related Speakers