By Alex Edwards
Although 33 years separate their time at the University of Mississippi, Rose Flenorl and Courtney Pearson share many similar experiences growing up in the southern United States.
Their individual experiences at Ole Miss help illustrate the racial changes that have been made over the past 50 years at the state’s oldest university. The University of Mississippi was chartered in 1844 and welcomed its first class of 80 students in 1848. After 114 years, James Meredith’s enrollment forcibly ended Ole Miss’ segregation and created new opportunities for blacks in Mississippi.
In the fall semester of 1977, while Rose Flenorl was in school, the university’s undergraduate student body was 7.1 percent black. While a senior at Ole Miss, Flenorl became the first African American to run for “Miss Ole Miss,” a position that honored the most involved female on campus. Although she didn’t win, Flenorl was recognized for making great strides in improving race relations on campus.
Courtney Pearson is a senior education major at Ole Miss. Growing up in a military family, Pearson didn’t move to the South until elementary school. During her senior year, Pearson was elected as homecoming queen and in doing so, became the first African American to win the crown.
In the 2012-2013 school year, Ole Miss’ Oxford and regional campuses student body was 16.7 percent black. According to census data, Mississippi’s population is currently 37.3 percent black. Ole Miss has made strides, but how far has the university come?
This video by Ole Miss student Alex Edwards explores that question. It was posted previously at the the DMOnline, the website of the Daily Mississippian, the student newspaper for Ole Miss.