Visit the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum in Savannah Georgia
This museum is named in honor of the late Dr. Ralph Mark Gilbert.
The father of Savannah Georgia's modern day Civil Rights Movement and fearless National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) leader was known for much more than his outspoken campaigns for civil rights. He was a nationally known orator, pulpiteer and playwright, producing religious dramas (passion plays) throughout the country.
Dr. Gilbert served as pastor of historic First African Baptist Church on Franklin Square in Savannah Georgia for 16 years. In 1942, he reorganized the Savannah Branch NAACP, served as president for eight years and convened the first state conference. Branches from Savannah, Brunswick, Dublin, Atlanta, Columbus, Macon, Albany and three other branches whose identities are uncertain, attended and elected Rev. Ralph Mark Gilbert president. Under his courageous leadership, more than forty NAACP branches were organized in Georgia by 1950.
His tenure as president is marked by significant contributions for equality and justice in Georgia. He boldly challenged the Georgia white Primary, fought for an inhibited black vote when he launched a city voter registration drive that registered hundreds of Black Savannahians and removed boss rule in local politics. His support for a reform Mayor and Council slate led to the integration of law enforcement when some of the first Black policemen in the deep South were hired by the Savannah Police Department in 1947.
He was lauded for his work to secure a USO club for Black servicemen at Camp Stewart. He spearheaded the formation of the colored USO/YMCA with an integrated board of directors; the Greenbriar Children Center, an orphanage for Black girls; and the Citizens Democratic Club, a political organization. This man for all seasons champion for all rights accorded Black Americans.
Georgia's best new history museum chronicles the civil rights struggle of Georgia's oldest African American community from slavery to the present. Three floors of handsome photographic and interactive exhibits, includes an NAACP Organization exhibit, a fiber optic map of 87 significant civil rights sites/events, a lunch counter where "sit ins" occurred, segregation exhibits, and video presentation are all part of the continuous education of the public on the history of the civil rights struggle in Savannah and Georgia.
The museum is located in historic Savannah Georgia in a five level building that was erected in 1914 as the Wage Earners Savings and Loan Bank for Black Savannahians, the largest Black bank in the country at that time.
Dr. Ralph Mark Gilbert died in 1956, leaving a legacy of outstanding religious, educational, political and social leadership in Savannah and throughout Georgia. His widow Mrs. Elorie S. Gilbert donated his letters and papers to the museum. A five year membership, endowment and capital funds campaign was launched earlier this year to raise funds to install an archive and library in the museum to house Dr. Gilbert's papers an other significant historic civil rights documents.
During the 1950's and 60's, Savannah's civil rights movement was directed by veteran NAACP leader and branch president W.W. Law, the visionary behind the development of the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum. The NAACP led Savannah Georgia movement was a training ground for NAACP leadership, out of which came Hosea Williams, the late James Brown Jr., Mercedes Arnold, Carolyn Quilloin Coleman and Earl T. Shinhoster.