Sunday, February 5, 2023

Oxford Writers, Ole Miss Alumni Among 95 Mississippi Writers Opposing HB 1523

Photo courtesy John Grisham
Photo courtesy John Grisham

Today, 95 Mississippi writers sent out a statement to publications to express their opposition of recently-passed House Bill 1523, also known as “Religious Liberty Accommodations Act.”

The statement in full reads:

Mississippi has a thousand histories, but these can be boiled down to two strains: our reactionary side, which has nourished intolerance and degradation and brutality, which has looked at difference as a threat, which has circled tightly around the familiar and the monolithic; and our humane side, which treasures compassion and charity and a wide net of kinship, which is fascinated by character and story, which is deeply involved in the daily business of our neighbors. This core kindness, the embracing of wildness and weirdness, is what has nurtured the great literature that has come from our state. What literature teaches us is empathy. It reminds us to reach out a hand to our neighbors—even if they look different from us, love different from us—and say, “Why, I recognize you; you’re a human, just like me, sprung from the same messy place, bound on the same hard road.” Mississippi authors have written through pain, and they have written out of disappointment, but they have also written from wonder, and pride, and a fierce desire to see the politics of this state live up to its citizens. It is deeply disturbing to so many of us to see the rhetoric of hate, thinly veiled, once more poison our political discourse. But Governor Phil Bryant and the Mississippi legislators who voted for this bill are not the sole voices of our state. There have always been people here battling injustice. That’s the version of Mississippi we believe in, and that’s the Mississippi we won’t stop fighting for.

36 of the 95 writers are Oxford residents/business owners and University of Mississippi alumni. Here are their names:

Oxford residents and business owners
Neil White
Julie Cantrell
Lisa Howorth
Ace Atkins
William Boyle
Martha Hall Foose – She opened Bottletree Bakery in Oxford.
Kelly Butler
Jim Dees

University of Mississippi faculty (past or present)
Matt Bondurant – assistant professor of English
Jimmy Cajoleas – graduate instructor
John T. Edge – director of Southern Foodways Alliance, an institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture.
Beth Ann Fennelly – associate professor of English
William R. Ferris – founding director of Center for the Study of Southern Culture, professor of anthropology (1979 – 1997)
Ann Fisher-Wirth – professor of English
Tom Franklin – associate professor of fiction writing
Melissa Ginsburg – assistant professor of English and creative writing
Derrick Harriel – assistant professor of English and African-American Studies
Kiese Laymon – Writer-in-Residence (2015-2016)
Curtis Wilkie – Cook chair and associate professor of journalism at Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics
Mary Miller – Writer-in-Residence (2014-2015)
Family of Willie Morris who was the Writer-in-Residence in 1980

University of Mississippi alumni
Maari Carter
William Dunlap
W. Ralph Eubanks
John Grisham
Matthew Guinn (masters in English)
Greg Iles
Jamie Kornegay
Douglas Ray
James Seay
Gary Sheppard (John Grisham Fellowship recipient)
Donna Tartt
Tate Taylor
Larry Wells (doctorate in English)
Gerry Wilson
Steve Yarbrough

Here is the statement in full below with all 95 writers’ signatures.

writers statement

Correction: Greg Iles was left out of the list of alumni.

Callie Daniels Bryant is the senior managing editor at She can be reached at

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