Now, the two museums are almost complete. Each will share the two-floor, 200,000-square-foot building filled with more than 20,000 artifacts. The Mississippi Civil Rights Museum will be the first state-operated civil-rights museum in the nation.
The Museum of Mississippi History, which spans 20,000 square feet and two floors, covers the state's history beginning all the way back in 5,000 B.C.
"We are giving the time and context of what Mississippi was like," Museum of Mississippi History Director Rachel Myers told the Jackson Free Press.
The history museum will have four theaters to educate audiences on the subject matter and time periods. One of the theaters is modeled after Mount Helm Baptist Church, which is the oldest African American church in Jackson. It will play a film on the time from Reconstruction to 1927. The museum, whose theme is "One Mississippi, many stories," will have "reflection rooms" for people to tell their own Mississippi stories. A balcony on the second floor overlooks the Mississippi history maze. Myers calls it the "selfie spot."
"You get a sense of the amount of history," she said at a museum preview.
At the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, quotes and images cover nearly every wall. The museums' different exhibit rooms flow into the main natural-light-filled reflection room. Harry Dixon Loes' version of "This Little Light of Mine" fills the air.
The civil-rights museum narrows its scope to 1945 to 1976, which was the height of the Civil Rights Movement. It begins with a timeline from slavery to freedom. The museum's eight galleries will focus on subjects such as the Freedom Riders, Emmett Till, Black Empowerment and the final gallery, which is titled, "What's next?"
The walls of the Freedom Riders gallery are covered with mugshots of the riders who came to the city on previously segregated busses and were arrested.
"They were fighting for a cause for someone like me," Mississippi Civil Rights Museum Director Pamela Junior said this summer. "So that I have the rights of all rights as a human being. That's what they fought for."
Junior said that photos cover the walls to tell the story of civil-rights history in Mississippi and to show the faces of those who fought for freedom for black people.
Bringing the museums to fruition started with state- and community-funding efforts.
In October 2013, people such as Gov. Phil Bryant and Evers-Williams broke ground on the museums, which jumpstarted the funding for the projects. The Mississippi Legislature committed $90 million to the museums with more than $17 million in private funds from the Foundation for Mississippi History, the museums' website says.
"This museum was brought together by a variety of people over many, many years," Myers told the Jackson Free Press. "It feels good for us to have such authentic voices here in the museum."
In January 2016, the Jackson Free Press reported that the 2 Mississippi Museums project still needed $4 million in funds for production. The City of Jackson has not provided any funds to the museums' production. The project is solely a state project with additional private funds.
However, Chris Goodwin, who is the director of public information for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, said that the Jackson Convention and Visitors Bureau has helped with marketing for the museums.
Goodwin says the State paid for the construction and will be in charge of day-to-day operations. The state is also paying the operating costs ranging from lighting to employee paychecks. Some of the private funding is going to endowment programs for each museum, which Goodwin says is earlier in the process.
Goodwin says that the State mandated that private funds needed to match the state funds on exhibit.
The museums will share a joint opening on Dec. 9 at 222 North St. in downtown Jackson. For more information, visit mdah.ms.gov.