By Erin Garrett
University of Mississippi
As part of the 60th anniversary of integration at the University of Mississippi, this is the final installment of a four-part series based on the themes that are inscribed on the Civil Rights Monument on campus: perseverance, courage, knowledge and opportunity. These student stories reflect the characteristics that James Meredith embodied six decades ago when he enrolled as the university’s first Black student.
Rabria Moore had never written a news story before she stepped foot on the University of Mississippi campus.
Now editor-in-chief of The Daily Mississippian, the university’s student newspaper, the senior journalism and political science dual major has covered issues surrounding water access, domestic violence and diversity. Over the course of her time at the university, she has interned with the National Press Club and been selected for a New York Times talent-pipeline program.
“Coming in, I didn’t have any writing experience,” said Moore, a Durant native. “My high school didn’t have journalism classes. I came to the DM as a news writer and wrote all the stories I could and got all the help I could get.
“I stuck with it because I loved it.”
Moore said the university was not even on her radar when she began choosing colleges. She came to visit during high school, however, and immediately felt at ease in the School of Journalism and New Media and its S. Gale Denley Student Media Center.
“I remember when we were leaving, I told my mom that I could see myself coming here,” she said. “She didn’t think that I wanted to stay in Mississippi because I had been very adamant about going out-of-state. I chose it because in terms of in-state colleges, the university had the best journalism program.”
Moore, who became a Luckyday Scholar, fostered relationships with journalism faculty early on and made it her mission to get as much writing experience as possible.
“A lot of the people in the School of Journalism helped me,” she said. “They showed me how to get involved. I noticed that they seemed to really care about me – I hoped it was true, and it was.”
One of those faculty members was Ellen Meacham, adjunct instructional assistant professor. Meacham praised Moore’s work ethic and intellect. In particular, she has been impressed with her writing skills.
“While Rabria was working with Weiner Public News, she wrote a fantastic piece about the attorney general who oversaw the George Floyd case,” Meacham said. “I learned more from her article than I had from any of the others I had read on the topic.”
Of all the articles she has written, Moore said that one sticks out. The piece tells the story of a woman who lives in an unincorporated part of Lafayette County. She has been trying to gain access to clean community water for years.
“I think about it a lot,” Moore said. “The project lasted about six months, and I visited her a few different times. I wanted to see justice for her because she deserves access to clean water like everyone else does.”
Moore is also proud of her team at the DM for its 60th anniversary of integration edition of the paper. She was present at the signature event of the university’s commemoration where James Meredith was honored.
“Being a Black student here at the university, it was very significant,” she said. “I’m sure I’ll always remember it.”
Moore, who is also a student in the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, added political science as a second major at the end of her sophomore year. She has been advised by Marvin King, associate professor of political science, on her Honors College thesis, which examines the idea of Black joy.
While there are many academic papers and research studies on which countries are happiest, the outcomes are typically inversely proportional to the presence of stress. These types of studies also factor in objective measurements such as education, income and health quality.
Joy, however, can exist even when a group of people, such as the Black community, is objectively less happy based on those measures.
“It’s a very unique and interesting topic,” King said. “This idea of Black joy is that there is more to life than those objective measures. So, her research involves talking to people about what brings them joy in their lives.
“For many people, it’s their culture, it’s their family, it’s their community. She wraps all of that up in this concept of Black joy.”
Moore traveled to Kentucky to conduct interviews and even attended California’s Black Joy Parade. King said that he had never been approached by a student about studying this sort of topic.
“Rabria is a deep thinker, and it shows in this project,” he said. “She’s married her two interests in journalism and political science in an innovative way.
“I haven’t seen many students accomplish as much as she has in her time on campus. She is busy with the DM and her classes and then during the summer, she was giving campus tours – she’s just nonstop. It’s remarkable.”
Besides her internships and role at the DM, Moore has contributed to a variety of campus organizations. She is a member of the UM chapter of the Association of Black Journalists, an Ole Miss ambassador, a member of the Columns Society and has served as an orientation leader.
Moore even discovered a passion for study abroad while she was at the university. She had always wanted to travel to Africa, and last year that dream came true. She studied in Ghana and immersed herself in the culture there.
Jennifer Simmons, assistant provost, met Moore as a prospective student while she was serving as assistant dean for the journalism school. Today, they are close friends.
“Rabria is truly one of the best students I have ever encountered,” Simmons said. “She is brilliant – not just in an academic sense, but in a personable sense because she is very down-to-earth. She is a genuinely good person who just happens to be extremely smart.
“Watching her meet her goals and witnessing the journey she’s taken to get her degree has been extremely enjoyable. I hope she goes on to make a difference in someone’s life.”
Recently, Moore received a Taylor Medal, the university’s top academic honor. She was also inducted into the university’s Hall of Fame and presented with the journalism school’s Excellence in Journalism Award.
Now that graduation is upon her, Moore has a big decision to make. She has been accepted to Harvard University to study education policy and was recently named a Fulbright Scholar. The Fulbright will enable her to go to Zambia to serve as a teaching assistant for the next nine months.
Moore said she is thankful for all that she has learned at Ole Miss.
“My experience here has opened up my mind to a new world of possibilities,” she said. “Coming here, I had never done a lot of things: I had never gotten on a plane, I had never been abroad, I had never written a story before.
“The university showed me how to do the things I’ve always wanted to do.”