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The museum is named for Ralph Mark Gilbert, a Savannah leader of the civil rights movement. Gilbert served as president of the Savannah NAACP for eight years. Museum modern civil rights movement was charted by local African Americans and adhered to the principles of nonviolent protest. The Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum is named in honor of the father of that movement and was daopted as Georgia State Historical Civil Rights Museum in 2009. The museum site was originally constructed in 1914 as an African American bank, with Lucius Williams as president. Robert Pharrow, an African American contractor from Atlanta, built the structure. It later served as the Guaranty Insurance Company, with Walter Sanford Scott, a local black millionaire, as president, and as the Savannah office of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
The Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum is named in honor of the late Dr. Ralph Mark Gilbert, the father of Savannah's modern day Civil Rights Movement and leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Dr. Gilbert served as pastor of historic First African Baptist Church on Franklin Square in Savannah for 16 years. In 1942, he reorganized the Savannah Branch NAACP, served as president for eight years and convened its first state conference. Under his courageous leadership, more than forty NAACP branches were organized in Georgia by 1950.
Although the building that houses this museum is modern in comparison to others in historic Savannah, it has played an important part in Savannah's African-American history. Built in 1914 by Robert Pharrow, an African-American contractor from Atlanta, the building was home to the Wage Earners Savings and Loan Bank, once the largest bank for blacks in this county. The building now houses the history of Savannah's civil rights movement.
The Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum chronicles the civil rights struggle of Georgia's oldest African-American community from slavery to the present. Three floors of historic photographic and interactive exhibits provide a glimpse of what life was like during the civil rights struggle in Savannah and in Georgia. The museum also features lecture halls, classrooms, a video/reading room, an African-American book collection for children and a gift shop.
The law designating The Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum as the official Georgia state historical civil rights museum is found in the Georgia Code, Title 50, Chapter 3, Section 50-3-85.
TITLE 50 - STATE GOVERNMENT
CHAPTER 3 - STATE FLAG, SEAL, AND OTHER SYMBOLS
ARTICLE 3 - OTHER STATE SYMBOLS
§ 50-3-85 - Official Georgia historical civil rights museum
The Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum is designated an official Georgia historical civil rights museum.