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University of Mississippi’s History Department Faculty Recommend Revision to Plaque

The plaque will be installed on the marble slab in front of the Confederate Monument.
The plaque will be installed on the marble slab in front of the Confederate Monument.

Faculty members in the University of Mississippi’s history department have responded to Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and the contextualization committee’s invitation for comments and recommendations on possible revisions to the proposed language for the plaque on the Confederate Monument, located at the historic Lyceum Circle.

The 33 faculty members sent a statement to the Daily Mississippian and The Clarion-Ledger saying that the proposed language has not properly contextualized the history of the Confederate Monument per the recommendations expressed in former Chancellor Dan Jones’ Action Plan 2014.

The statement, as published by Daily Mississippian and The Clarion-Ledger, reads in part:

“In response to Chancellor Vitter’s March 29th call for suggestions to change the wording of the plaque, we submit the following text, which has been adapted from a template created by the Atlanta History Center for this purpose:

From the 1870s through the 1920s, memorial associations erected more than 1,000 Confederate monuments throughout the South. These monuments reaffirmed white southerners’ commitment to a “Lost Cause” ideology that they created to justify Confederate defeat as a moral victory and secession as a defense of constitutional liberties. The Lost Cause insisted that slavery was not a cruel institution and – most importantly – that slavery was not a cause of the Civil War. It also conveyed a belief, widely accepted throughout the United States, in white racial supremacy. Campaigns for legally mandated “Jim Crow” segregation and for the disfranchisement of African Americans accompanied celebrations of the Lost Cause; these campaigns often sparked racial violence, including lynching.

Historians today recognize slavery as the central cause of the Civil War and freedom as its most important result. Although deadly and destructive, the Civil War freed four million enslaved southerners and led to the passage of constitutional amendments that promised national citizenship and equal protection of laws, regardless of race. This monument, created in 1906 to recognize the sacrifice of Mississippians who fought to establish the Confederacy as a slaveholding republic, must now remind us that Confederate defeat brought freedom, however imperfect, to millions of people.”

The professors listed are Mikaëla M. Adams, Jesse Cromwell, Oliver Dinius, Charles W. Eagles, Chiarella Esposito, Lester J. Field, Jr., Joshua First, Shennette Garrett-Scott, Susan R. Grayzel, Darren E. Grem, Zachary Kagan Guthrie, April Holm, Joshua H. Howard, Vivian Ibrahim, Courtney Kneupper, Marc H. Lerner, Theresa H. Levitt, Rebecca Marchiel, John R. Neff, John Ondrovcik, Ted M. Ownby, Elizabeth A. Payne, Paul J. Polgar, Jarod Roll, Mohammed Bashir Salau, Douglass Sullivan-González, Antoinette Sutto, Nicolas Trépanier, Anne Twitty, Joseph P. Ward, Jeffrey R. Watt, Jessica Wilkerson and Noell Howell Wilson.

The proposed language, revealed by Chancellor Vitter on March 11, reads:

“As Confederate veterans were passing from the scene in increasing numbers, memorial associations built monuments in their memory all across the South. This statue was dedicated by citizens of Oxford and Lafayette County in 1906. On the evening of September 30, 1962, the statue was a rallying point where a rebellious mob gathered to prevent the admission of the University’s first African American student. It was also at this statue that a local minister implored the mob to disperse and allow James Meredith to exercise his rights as an American citizen. On the morning after that long night, Meredith was admitted to the University and graduated in August 1963.

“This historic structure is a reminder of the University’s past and of its current and ongoing commitment to open its hallowed halls to all who seek truth and knowledge and wisdom.”

The contextualization committee is currently accepting comments and suggestions for potential revisions to the language on the Confederate Monument’s plaque until Friday, April 8. They can be reached at context@OleMiss.edu. The committee is comprised of Drs. Donald Cole, Andrew Mullins, Charles Ross, and David Sansing.

Callie Daniels Bryant is the senior managing editor at HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at callie.daniels@hottytoddy.com.

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