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Uncertain Statue Relocation Met With Apprehension From Opposing Groups

By Talbert Toole
Lifestyles Editor

(Left to right): Counter protestors debate with pro-Confederate protestors who gathered in the Lyceum-Circle Feb. 23. Pro-Confederate groups marched from the Square to the Ole Miss campus advocating for the Confederate statue. Photos by Kerrigan Herret.

Over the past several months, members of the LOU community and student-led organizations have marched in favor of the relocation of the Confederate statue on campus. In opposition, pro-Confederate groups rallied for the protection of what they deem as their Civil War heritage.

Interim Chancellor Larry Sparks informed the university community Thursday, March 21 he is in agreement the statue should be moved and will consult with the Mississippi Department of Archives and History and the staff of the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning to do so. 

In the midst of a Sparks’ university-wide resolution, the opposing groups say they remain apprehensive.  

Commending Sparks’ Decision

Jared Foster, a junior and communications chair for Students Against Social Injustice (SASI), said his organization recognizes the interim chancellor’s statement as a result of the efforts made by many organizations and it complements SASI’s campaign for the relocation of the statue.

“We see it as progress,” Foster said, “but we are taking it lightly.”

Foster said the organization knew the statue would eventually “come down” and that it was just a matter of time.

During SASI’s November 2018 and February 2019 marches, members of the organization led the way grasping a banner that read “Take the Statue Down.” Foster said the organization actually advocated for the relocation of the statue; however, the banner language had a more powerful vibe.

Members of SASI marched from Lamar Hall to the Confederate statue in the Circle during their November march. Photo by Talbert Toole.

The initial problem SASI had regarding the location of the statue was its display in the center of campus, Foster said. SASI’s entire campaign has been for its relocation to the Confederate cemetery.

The cemetery, where experts estimate between 400-700 Confederate and Union soldiers are buried, lies south of the Tad Smith Coliseum.

Relocating the statue to the cemetery makes logical sense, Foster said, agreeing it was a more “suitable location.”

Foster confirmed SASI has been in constant communication with the university administration since governing bodies of the university voted on resolutions to relocate the statue.

However, he said the relocation will not be finalized until the student body continues to make demands, and SASI has several plans for the future to continue putting pressure on the university administration.

In February, Jarrius Adams, ASB director of Voter Registration and Elections and president of the UM Gospel Choir, led a march in which more than 150 students, faculty, staff and members of the LOU community participated in advocating for the relocation of the statue. The event was part of Black History Month programming for several groups on campus.

Adams said he commends the interim chancellor for staying on top of the issue.

“He is in the perfect position to push this issue until it is resolved,” Adams said.

During the February march, Adams expressed the reasons for why the Confederate statue should be relocated.

“This statue is not just stone and metal,” he said. “It is not just an innocent remembrance of a benign history. This statue celebrates a fictional, sanitized Confederacy.”

A Monument to the University Greys

Oxford resident and Ole Miss alumnus Starke Miller gives day-long Civil War tours around the university’s campus and has studied the war for 29 years. He said the monument is the grave marker for the “boys who did not come home.”

“The women who did not get their family members’ bodies back, that is their grave marker, both on the campus and the Courthouse Lawn,” he said. “I would not presume to take it down or move it for any reason any more than I would go into St. Peter’s and remove any grave marker there.”

The Confederate statue, which stands in the Lyceum-Circle, was erected in 1906 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. Photo by Talbert Toole.

Some of the Ole Miss students who joined the Confederate army did so to avoid taking exams, according to Miller. The students thought they would go on an adventure and come home as heroes, but it didn’t work out that way, he said.

Miller considers himself a religious man and said when he attended the university in the 70s he was offended by the school’s cheer, “Hotty Toddy,” due to a few four-letter curse words.

“I was surprised the school would allow it,” he said. “But I didn’t march into the Chancellor’s office and demand they stop doing it.”

The statue was erected in 1906 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The university decided to contextualize the statue in 2016.

The contextualized plaque reads, “These monuments were often used to promote an ideology known as the ‘Lost Cause,’ which claimed that the Confederacy had been established to defend states’ rights and that slavery was not the principal cause of the Civil War.”

The university placed a contextualized plaque in front of the statue in 2016. Photo by Talbert Toole.

Miller said he does not defend slavery and has never heard anyone in his lifetime defend it.

“It was as wrong as it could be,” he said.

Many of the women who rallied and raised the money for the statue also nursed the men who were part of the University Greys, Miller said. It is dedicated to all of the Lafayette County dead.

“People say those monuments are put up for racists purposes or to keep black people off the campus and the Square,” he said. “That is just not true.”

Pro-Confederate Rallies

Late Thursday afternoon after Sparks released his statement regarding the relocation of the Confederate statue, George Johnson, leader of the Memphis-based Confederate 901 organization went live from the Ole Miss campus via the organization’s Facebook page.

During his video stream, Johnson noted that the university not only has a Confederate statue but it also has a statue of James Meredith—the first African-American to be admitted into the university—which is located in between the Lyceum and J.D. Williams Library.

Johnson said he does not believe in tearing down statues and that the African-American community should build more statues honoring those who have helped the society of America.

“I have a message to you folks at the University of Mississippi… I don’t believe in tearing down statues, but I do believe in an eye for an eye,” he said in the video.

Johnson led the “Mississippi Stands” rally on Feb. 23. The rally was an effort between Johnson’s organization and Arkansas-based group, The Hiwaymen, to protest the removal of the statue.

Members of the organizations say they are organizing a gathering at the statue for next month, according to the Confederate 901 Facebook page. Members posted they want to lay flowers at the statue in response to the university’s decision.

Miller said he called Johnson and sat with him for a while discussing the issue of the statue. He asked him not to lead another rally or protest because it would not help the organization’s cause.

“All I see is possible harm, especially if there’s violence,” Miller said. “That would really do these monuments in.”

Alyssa Schnugg, News Editor, contributed to this story.

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