The History of Savannah's Civil Rights Movement
Celebrating the 100th Anniversary
of Westley Wallace Law's Centennial
W. W. Law was president of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and founder of the Civil Rights Museum and the Black Heritage Festival. The Museum is named for his mentor, Reverend Dr. Ralph Mark Gilbert, the 13th pastor of the First African Baptist Church and the “Modern father of Savannah’s Civil Rights Movement.”
The Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum is dedicated to the history of Savannah’s Civil Rights Movement and the story of the “freedom fighters” of the local chapter of the NAACP.
Come visit the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum. Walk through three floors of history. Read about Ralph Mark Gilbert, the 13th pastor of Savannah’s First African Baptist Church. Remembered as the “father” of the 20th century Civil Rights Movement in Savannah, who reignited the local chapter of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the 1940s. Gilbert mentored Westley Wallace Law, who took over the leadership of the NAACP in 1950 and led the protest movement of the 1960s.
See the 1960s lunch counter like the ones the NAACP staged the sit-ins that resulted in an economic boycott of white businesses on Broughton Street that helped desegregate the city businesses.
Learn about the NAACP’s fight for Voting Rights led by Hosea Williams and Benjamin Van Clark of the Chatham County Crusade for Voters (CCCV). In 1963, there were CCCV lunch time protests in downtown city squares. There were night marches with police on standby and protest leaders were arrested.
Benjamin Van Clark, RMG Frederick C. Baldwin Collection
Savannah's Civil Rights Heroes
Ralph Mark Gilbert
Our museum is named after Gilbert, a courageous figure that built the foundations of the Civil Rights Movement here in Savannah and throughout the Deep South. Learn more about his many accomplishments here.
Westley Wallace Law
The Legacy of Westley Wallace Law, Civil Rights Leader, Historian, Preservationist and Aesthete
Williams was an important part of the Savannah Civil Rights Movement. He then continued his work with Martin Luther King, Jr. and the SCLC. Read a newspaper article from our archive describing his call for the community to boycott Savannah stores that were practicing Jim Crow Era segregation.
About The Museum
The museum is located in Savannah's Historic area, on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The street was once named West Broad Street, the heart of the city's black business community. The building built in 1914 as the Wage Earners Savings Bank was the second largest black bank in America at the time.
Find on display three floors of informative historic photos, documentaries and interactive exhibits documenting the city's Jim Crow era and Civil Rights movement.
The Eloria S. Gilbert Archives at the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum
The Archive was designed to receive the papers of the Reverend Dr. Ralph Mark Gilbert. The Gilbert Collection was donated to the Museum by Mrs. Eloria S. Gilbert and arrived, on site, on July 8, 2020. The Collection includes hundreds of type-written sermons Reverend Gilbert delivered as the 13th pastor of the First African Baptist Church, the noteworthy Passion Plays written and performed in Savannah and documents related to his work in Savannah and the state of Georgia, as president of the local and state chapters of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
In the 1940s, while her husband, Reverend Ralph Mark Gilbert, headed up the state and local NAACP, in one part of Georgia, Mrs. Gilbert established others around the state. She also visited more than 25 US cities as an NAACP field representative, lecturer and orator. In the 1950s, Mrs. Gilbert was the Postmistress at Savannah State Post Office, Thunderbolt, Georgia. After the death of Rev. Gilbert, in 1956, she maintained archive of his writings and in 2020 gave these documents to the Museum that bears his name. In the future we are expecting to add the papers of Eloria S. Gilbert to the Museum’s Collection.
The Museum is honored to be named for Dr. Ralph Mark Gilbert and now as a tribute to Mrs. Gilbert, for her support and dedication to the Civil Rights Movement, there is now the Eloria S. Gilbert Archive at the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum.
The Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum accepts items to its Collection relative to the Savannah Civil Rights Movement. If you have any collectibles or know anyone who would like to help the Museum tell this story, please contact the Museum through this website or call 912-777-6099.
Plan Your Visit
460 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., Savannah, Georgia 31401
Thursday – Saturday
10am - 5pm (last tour at 4pm)
Individuals: Adults $14 | Seniors $8 | Students $7
Groups: Adults $10 | Seniors $7 | Students $5
* Individuals - Debit / Credit card only
* Groups - Debit / Credit / Business Checks