University of Mississippi Confederate Monument
During the Civil War, the University of Mississippi closed its doors as many of its students enlisted in the Confederate army, most notably as members of the University Greys and Lamar Rifles companies. In 1906, the United Daughters of the Confederacy dedicated a 29-foot Confederate monument at the entrance to the university. Ostensibly dedicated to local veterans, both the monument itself and the dedication ceremony were imbued with support for the "Lost Cause" interpretation of history which sought to vindicate the antebellum South and the Confederacy. In 1962, white student rioters protesting against racial integration at the university chose to gather around this monument. In recent years, as more students and alumni have learned about the connection between Confederate Monuments and support for the Lost Cause, there have been increasing calls for the monument's reinterpretation and/or relocation. On July 14, 2020, the University of Mississippi relocated the monument to the on-campus Confederate cemetery, which is located off the Coliseum Loop. Debates over the best way to interpret this and other Confederate symbols continue as members of the university community discuss topics such as the history of the University during the Civil Rights Movement and the connection between the University and slavery.
Backstory and Context
The University of Mississippi (often referred to as Ole Miss) was founded in 1844 in Oxford. Similar to many Southern colleges, the University of Mississippi found itself swept up in secession and the Civil War in 1861. The outbreak of war forced the University to close, and its students enlisted in several Confederate companies, notably the University Greys and the Lamar Rifles which became parts of the 11th Mississippi Infantry. The 11th Mississippi fought in many of the major battles in the Eastern Theater during the war, including Gettysburg. At the war's conclusion, the University reopened its doors.
In the postwar years, various groups sought to commemorate the University's students who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. In 1889, the local chapter of the Delta Gamma sorority purchased a stained-glass window from Tiffany Glass Company that depicted the University Greys throughout the war.
In May 1906, the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) dedicated a Confederate monument at the entrance to the university. Responsible for many Confederate statues across the South, the UDC propagated tenets of "Lost Cause" ideology which maintained that "states' rights" was the cause of the war instead of slavery. The Lost Cause also suggests that the Confederacy was overwhelmed by superior numbers instead of the more accurate interpretation that the Confederacy was crumbling from within as soldiers deserted and states refused or failed to match the manpower and financial support requested from Richmond. Finally, the Lost Cause supports the white supremacist view of Reconstruction as an era of "misrule" by black Southerners.
Rejecting this idea, scholars from W.E.B. Du Bois to Eric Foner have shown and that African American citizens and officeholders were part of a biracial Republican Party that attempted to promote industry, education, and an agricultural system that was not dependent upon cotton or other soil-exhausting crops. This vision ran counter to the economic interests of plantation owners and white and black Republicans faced violence and electoral fraud from hostile white Southerners who were determined to reverse the consequences of the Civil War.
Research by the University of Mississippi reveals how the UDC infused Lost Cause beliefs into the monument. Standing 29 feet tall, the monument depicts a Confederate soldier standing vigil over the landscape. "The monument throughout is strictly Southern," the local Oxford Eagle noted approvingly, "being of Southern material, manufactured by Southern men and designed by a Southern man." The text of the monument features poetry by Lord Byron and a Greek epitaph by Simonides, both of which romanticize small numbers of soldiers fighting valiantly against overwhelming odds.
The 1906 dedication ceremony was likewise imbued with Lost Cause sentiments. The featured speaker was Charles Scott, a Confederate veteran then running for governor who often wore his Confederate uniform during public engagements. Scott's address praised Confederate veterans who "boldly, aggressively, and intentionally overrode the letter of the law, that they might maintain the spirit of the law and preserve Anglo Saxon civilization" by overthrowing democratically elected state governments "during the nightmare called the reconstruction." Professor C.A. Alexander spoke at the dedication on behalf of the university, and the school yearbook included the monument in its pages the subsequent year. The ceremony was capped by a three volley salute fired by Confederate veterans.
During the 1962 riots over the integration of the University, white rioters unintentionally rallied around the monument during their standoff with United States marshals. Episcopal minister Duncan Gray, who advocated peace that evening, was beaten by the crowd nearby.
In the 21st century, the Confederate monument and its "Lost Cause" legacy increasingly came under scrutiny (as did other Confederate aspects of the university's identity, including its "Colonel Rebel" mascot). In 2016, the University of Mississippi added a plaque near the monument with the following text:
"As Confederate veterans were dying in increasing numbers, memorial associations across the South built monuments in their memory. 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. Residents of Oxford and Lafayette County dedicated this statue, approved by the university, in 1906. Although the monument was created to honor the sacrifice of local Confederate soldiers, it must also remind us that the defeat of the Confederacy actually meant freedom for millions of people. On the evening of September 30, 1962, this statue was a rallying point for opponents of integration.
This historic statue is a reminder of the university’s divisive past. Today, the University of Mississippi draws from that past a continuing commitment to open its hallowed halls to all who seek truth, knowledge, and wisdom."
Despite the plaque's inclusion, calls for the statue's relocation or removal continued. In February 2019, protests and counter-protests over the statue continued, and in March 2019, the University's student government unanimously approved a resolution called for the relocation of the monument to the on-campus Confederate cemetery. In June 2020, the University obtained approval from the Institutions of Higher Learning Board to relocate the Confederate monument to the Confederate cemetery. This relocation took place on July 14, 2020 .
The University of Mississippi's relocation plans have also not been without controversy, as many feared the relocation would still glorify the Confederacy. The university planned to add a "well lit, brick path to the [relocated] monument," as well as new headstones in the cemetery . The headstones, in particular, drew criticism because the graves are not currently marked and the location and identities of the dead cannot be verified . The relocation is expected to cost $1.15 million in private funds .
Some have decried the decision to beautify the Confederate monument. As UM's Associated Student Body President Joshua Mannery noted, "I think there is a level of respect that needs to go to a cemetery...but I think beautifying is an extra step that we don’t have to take, so they’re moving it to a cemetery, but they’re making said cemetery look better than like 75% of any other parts of our campus. [It’s] defeating the purpose of moving it at that point."
1. Twitty, Anne. "Ole Miss's Monument to White Supremacy." June 19, 2020. The Atlantic. Web. Accessed July 6, 2020. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/06/ole-misss-monument-white-supremacy/613255/
2. Neff, John, Jared Roll, and Anne Twitty. "A Brief Historical Contextualization of the Confederate Monument at the University of Mississippi." May 16, 2016. History Department, University of Mississippi. Web. Accessed July 6, 2020. https://history.olemiss.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2017/08/A-Brief-Historical-Contextualization-of-the-Confederate-Monument-at-the-University-of-Mississippi.pdf
3. "Confederate Monument." Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS). Web. Accessed July 6, 2020. https://siris-artinventories.si.edu/ipac20/ipac.jsp?&profile=ariall&source=~!siartinventories&uri=full=3100001~!314567~!0#focus
4. Yaran, Mary Clingerman. "University of Mississippi." February 4, 2018. Mississippi Encyclopedia. Web. Accessed July 7, 2020. https://mississippiencyclopedia.org/entries/university-of-mississippi/
5. "University Greys Memorial Window Contextualization Plaque Text." The University of Mississippi, College of Liberal Arts. Web. Accessed July 7, 2020. https://libarts.olemiss.edu/university-greys-memorial-window-contextualization-plaque/
6. Coon, Allen. "Opinion: The University Greys: students, soldiers, sons of slaveholders." October 20, 2017. The Daily Mississippian. Web. Accessed July 7, 2020. https://thedmonline.com/opinion-university-greys-students-soldiers-sons-slaveholders/
7. Office of the Chancellor, University of Mississippi. "History, Context, Identity." June 10, 2016. Web. Accessed July 13, 2020. https://chancellor.olemiss.edu/history-context-identity/
8. Betz, Kelsey Davis. "University of Mississippi to relocate Confederate monument." June 18, 2020. Mississippi Today. Web. Accessed July 13, 2020. https://mississippitoday.org/2020/06/18/universtiy-of-mississippi-to-relocate-confederate-monument/
9. Betz, Kelsey Davis. "'Oxford is more than what these individuals came to represent': Confederate rally met with counter-protests, including by athletes." February 23, 2019. Mississippi Today. Web. Accessed July 13, 2020. https://mississippitoday.org/2019/02/23/confederate-rally-i-am-here-to-represent-that-oxford-is-more-than-what-these-individuals/
10. Ganucheau, Adam. "'What we stand for as an Ole Miss family': Meet the students leading a multiracial, bipartisan movement to relocate the school's Confederate monument." March 1, 2019. Mississippi Today. Web. Accessed July 13, 2020. https://mississippitoday.org/2019/03/01/what-we-stand-for-as-an-ole-miss-family-meet-the-students-leading-a-multiracial-bipartisan-movement-to-relocate-the-schools-confederate-monument/
11. Sellars, Chelsea. "'Relocation, not glorification:' Ole Miss students, staff upset with Confederate cemetery plans." June 21, 2020. WMC Action News 5. Web. Accessed July 13, 2020. https://www.wmcactionnews5.com/2020/06/22/relocation-not-glorification-ole-miss-students-staff-upset-with-confederate-cemetery-plans/
12. Kruse, Beth. "Making a Shrine out of the Confederate Cemetery is Amoral and Ahistorical," The Daily Mississippian. June 25th 2020. Accessed July 29th 2020. https://thedmonline.com/opinion-making-a-shrine-out-of-the-confederate-cemetery-is-amoral-and-ahistorical/.
13. Fowler, Sarah. "Confederate Statue on Ole Miss Campus Relocated," Clarion Ledger. July 14th 2020. Accessed July 29th 2020. https://www.clarionledger.com/story/news/2020/07/14/confederate-monument-ole-miss-statue-being-relocated-cemetery/5433553002/.
Rogelio V. Solis, AP, https://www.chronicle.com/article/Ole-Miss-Moves-to-Relocate/245952
University of Mississippi, Archives & Special Collections: https://olemiss.edu/depts/general_library/archives/exhibits/1861/classof61.htm
University of Mississippi: https://libarts.olemiss.edu/university-greys-memorial-window-contextualization-plaque/
Kelsey Davis, https://mississippitoday.org/2019/02/23/confederate-rally-i-am-here-to-represent-that-oxford-is-more-than-what-these-individuals/