University of Mississippi’s History Department Faculty Recommend Revision to Plaque

The plaque will be installed on the marble slab in front of the Confederate Monument.
The plaque will be installed on the marble slab in front of the Confederate Monument.

Faculty members in the University of Mississippi’s history department have responded to Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter and the contextualization committee’s invitation for comments and recommendations on possible revisions to the proposed language for the plaque on the Confederate Monument, located at the historic Lyceum Circle.

The 33 faculty members sent a statement to the Daily Mississippian and The Clarion-Ledger saying that the proposed language has not properly contextualized the history of the Confederate Monument per the recommendations expressed in former Chancellor Dan Jones’ Action Plan 2014.

The statement, as published by Daily Mississippian and The Clarion-Ledger, reads in part:

“In response to Chancellor Vitter’s March 29th call for suggestions to change the wording of the plaque, we submit the following text, which has been adapted from a template created by the Atlanta History Center for this purpose:

From the 1870s through the 1920s, memorial associations erected more than 1,000 Confederate monuments throughout the South. These monuments reaffirmed white southerners’ commitment to a “Lost Cause” ideology that they created to justify Confederate defeat as a moral victory and secession as a defense of constitutional liberties. The Lost Cause insisted that slavery was not a cruel institution and – most importantly – that slavery was not a cause of the Civil War. It also conveyed a belief, widely accepted throughout the United States, in white racial supremacy. Campaigns for legally mandated “Jim Crow” segregation and for the disfranchisement of African Americans accompanied celebrations of the Lost Cause; these campaigns often sparked racial violence, including lynching.

Historians today recognize slavery as the central cause of the Civil War and freedom as its most important result. Although deadly and destructive, the Civil War freed four million enslaved southerners and led to the passage of constitutional amendments that promised national citizenship and equal protection of laws, regardless of race. This monument, created in 1906 to recognize the sacrifice of Mississippians who fought to establish the Confederacy as a slaveholding republic, must now remind us that Confederate defeat brought freedom, however imperfect, to millions of people.”

The professors listed are Mikaëla M. Adams, Jesse Cromwell, Oliver Dinius, Charles W. Eagles, Chiarella Esposito, Lester J. Field, Jr., Joshua First, Shennette Garrett-Scott, Susan R. Grayzel, Darren E. Grem, Zachary Kagan Guthrie, April Holm, Joshua H. Howard, Vivian Ibrahim, Courtney Kneupper, Marc H. Lerner, Theresa H. Levitt, Rebecca Marchiel, John R. Neff, John Ondrovcik, Ted M. Ownby, Elizabeth A. Payne, Paul J. Polgar, Jarod Roll, Mohammed Bashir Salau, Douglass Sullivan-González, Antoinette Sutto, Nicolas Trépanier, Anne Twitty, Joseph P. Ward, Jeffrey R. Watt, Jessica Wilkerson and Noell Howell Wilson.

The proposed language, revealed by Chancellor Vitter on March 11, reads:

“As Confederate veterans were passing from the scene in increasing numbers, memorial associations built monuments in their memory all across the South. This statue was dedicated by citizens of Oxford and Lafayette County in 1906. On the evening of September 30, 1962, the statue was a rallying point where a rebellious mob gathered to prevent the admission of the University’s first African American student. It was also at this statue that a local minister implored the mob to disperse and allow James Meredith to exercise his rights as an American citizen. On the morning after that long night, Meredith was admitted to the University and graduated in August 1963.

“This historic structure is a reminder of the University’s past and of its current and ongoing commitment to open its hallowed halls to all who seek truth and knowledge and wisdom.”

The contextualization committee is currently accepting comments and suggestions for potential revisions to the language on the Confederate Monument’s plaque until Friday, April 8. They can be reached at context@OleMiss.edu. The committee is comprised of Drs. Donald Cole, Andrew Mullins, Charles Ross, and David Sansing.


Callie Daniels Bryant is the senior managing editor at HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at callie.daniels@hottytoddy.com.

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40 COMMENTS

  1. Rather presumptious and arrogant that the history department has taken it upon themselves to determine the motivation, ideaology and commitment of people they don’t know, have never spoken to and are long gone. Typical left wing educators, they have all the answers and no one else can possibly have a valid opinion if it does not match theirs.

    Unlike the faculty, I do not know everyone who had a role in the placing of monuments, but I should think there were a variety of motivations, and not all were to validate the lost cause. Sometimes people just want to honor their dead, even in a questionable conflict. Anyone want to remove the Vietnam Nam memorial?

    And do we really need a history lesson on the plaque? We have history classes and a library.. The plaque should say nothing more than it is a monument to the Univesity Greys. Let people read a book and then decide how they feel about it.

    You don’t need a left wing history department to tell you what other people thought 100 years ago…….even if they think they do.

  2. Oh really? It’s presumptuous and arrogant of historians, who study and analyze the past, to come to conclusions about, uh, the past? You’ve got to be kidding me.

    Isn’t it *actually* presumptuous and arrogant for people who don’t know anything about history to claim that when there are 10,000 pieces of evidence supporting conclusion A and absolutely no evidence supporting conclusion B that A and B are equivalently correct?

    Historians are objecting to the falsity of the current plaque. What they’re doing is no different than chemists claiming that water is comprised of hydrogen and oxygen and not iron and carbon. If chemists, in insisting upon that, are just left-wing ideologues, then there is no such thing as knowledge.

    Sooner or later, the facts have to matter.

  3. So, it’s both presumptuous and arrogant for the History Department at the University to actually respond to a request from their Chancellor? Who would you have preferred? The Pharmacy Department? Labeling the History Department as “Typical left wing educators, they have all the answers and no one else can possibly have a valid opinion if it does not match theirs” sounds overly presumptuous and arrogant on your part. I assure you that these educators have read and researched more than “a book” to honor this request,
    Neither the statue nor the plaque answer all the questions about our past. The placement of this plaque is just one example of the university fulfilling its mission as an educational institution by pursuing knowledge and understanding.

  4. If their opinion was valuable, why were they not consulted before the composition of the original plaque. This reeks of C Y A by Vitter.

    Yes, if they are consulted they should certainly respond, but I agree that their proposed language suggests that they know exactly what the motivation was of everyone who was involved in placing monuments all over the South.

  5. I thought I saw the plaque next to the monument a couple of weeks ago. Has the school removed the plaque to rewrite it?

  6. Is there anyone on campus who does not know slavery was a key cause of the war between the states? If they don’t, they are too stupid to be on campus anyway.

    This sounds like Black Lives Whining

  7. I detest The P.C. term of African American. Do you ever hear someone say I am an Italian American, or I am Welch American? No and they should not, we are all just Americans.
    Let us get back to being each others Brother or Sister and not placing people in Race Boxes. We are better than the Race Dividers who all themselves” Reverend “.

  8. These last few comments have been particularly offensive. If you are white, it’s not your business to “detest the P.C. term of African-American”, because you are not part of an historically disenfranchised group to the degree that African-Americans have been and to a large extent still are. If a “colored association was unhappy with it (the plaque)”, then they are the first who should be listened to on this issue. They represent those who have been treated despicably, no matter how you look at it, unless you’re in denial. And how typical of the uninformed to cry “left wing educators” when faced with an informed conclusion on an extremely uncomfortable issue. These “left wing educators”, as our first commenter would label those whose professional lives are dedicated to investigating what can actually be known about history, are not in a conspiracy to spread “left wing” propaganda. They’re reacting to the very real misconceptions of those students and members of the public who continue to buy in to the propaganda of revisionist “historians” sympathetic to the Confederate “cause”. How many times have I heard students parrot the sentiments of their parents who were apparently taught incorrectly that the Civil War was not about slavery? This “Lost Cause” mentality still exists, embarrassingly enough, despite Lamar’s writings being available to anyone curious enough to simply investigate his issue on the internet. Some of you who have commented here should be ashamed of yourselves and refrain from commenting.

  9. Oh Brother Alan, you have shown your Leftist (Or is called Progressive now)side. No one but your side has all of the answers and all others should be silenced. You do not know if I am White or Black , what if I am Black or of a Mixed race? What then? I am an AMERICAN nothing else. What about you?

  10. Oh, I think some very right-wing people (Donald Trump? Ted Cruz?) as well as left-wing people (Hillary Clinton? Bernie Sanders?) have all the answers. Haven’t you been following recent political news? They ALL have all the answers…. including you, it seems, with being so sure what I am and who has all the answers…. And no one is AMERICAN and nothing else. It is in the very definition of being American to be able to have this argument. Americans are as complex as anyone else. And I’m pretty sure I know what you are. Let’s not make fools of ourselves here…. I’m going to sign off before I say something I’ll regret. No more comments from me, no matter how embarrassing future comments end up being…. 😉

  11. That statue was put there to memorialize the soldiers who were Ole Miss students who were wiped out serving the State of Mississippi during the Civil War.It is the only tombstone many of the Greys will ever have as their bones are scattered across Virginia and Gettysburg.It had nothing to do with Jim Crow or white supremacy,it was put up to honor the dead boys who gave their all.

  12. First of all, that memorial has nothing to do with the Greys. Look it up. Nothing anywhere on the statute says anything about them and the memorial was purchased by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, not the University. Secondly, Confederate soldiers “gave their all” defending a slaveholding republic. Full stop. That was what the Confederacy was. That was how Confederates described the government they created and defended their secession from the Union. The Mississippi Articles of Secession make this extraordinarily plain. Dying in the defense of a really terrible idea is not noble. You wouldn’t defend those who “gave their all” in an effort to establish, say, an Islamic caliphate, which is also a really terrible idea, so don’t waste time defending the “sacrifice” made by those who wished to maintain the institution of slavery.

  13. The winds of politics being what they are, I have thought for some time that this day would come. I guess I should be surprised it took so long because 30 years ago I would have been in the group assembled today to place a new epitaph on the memories of defenseless men long dead. I had just enough education and knowledge to ferment in my mind the burning, righteous indignation that can only ferment in a privileged young man’s mind and I would have absolutely loved the comical drivel submitted by the faculty in response to the Chancellor’s call for comments and edits.. I wanted to right the wrongs, and fight evil where ever it was found. To borrow a phrase, ‘those were the days, my friends’.

    I considered using this letter to offer editorial suggestions, but have decided against it. The forces of Political Correctness would simply brush it aside. Instead, I’ll say this. The Confederate Memorial is a memorial to men who died defending Mississippi. Regardless of the reason the Federal Troops came, the men who fell died defending the state of Mississippi against an invading army. These brave men should rest in peace, and you should let the monument stand as it is. If you want to make a political statement about Jim Crow, Slavery, or segregation, then put up a monument to it. I’ll send money to help do it. It ought to be done. But, don’t desecrate a monument to brave men who died in battle with a ridiculous political statement. That’s just wrong.

    If it is truly your purpose to right some wrongs, and enlighten a new generation as to it’s history, then revise how you teach the Civil War, it’s aftermath and the Civil Rights Struggle. As a graduate of Ole Miss, and a life long student of history, I can tell you, with the ability to back it up, that the war, it’s causes, and it’s results are many and complex. If you believe for a minute that the war ended slavery, then I’d like to tel you about the share cropper system and the Voting Right’s Act. Were the former slaves truly ‘free men’, we would not have needed the Civil Rights act nor the Voting Rights Act in the 1960s. Who would believe that for 100 years following Reconstruction, the worst years of Jim Crow, the Democrat party in Mississippi ruled virtually unchallenged and in the 1960’s,for the second time in 100 years, the Republican Party came to the aid of the black man when it forced the Civil Rights and Voting Acts through Congress. We should be teaching the whole history of that struggle; the good, the bad, and the ugly.

    Finally, regarding the plaque on the monument, there is not doubt in my mind that what ever is put there will be politically correct. It won’t reflect anything meaningful from a historical perspective. It will tarnish the men who died defending Mississippi in 1860’s, and it will co-mingle a student body with to a mob of outside agitators who invaded the campus in 1962. The forces of political correctness always prey on those who can not defend themselves. I only ask that the names of those ‘forces’, the facility supporting the desecration of this monument, be included on the plaque. There will be a time when the Cultural Revolution ends, and when we once again can remember our history without the fear of the Thought Police coming after us. I think it’s important that the names of those who were the Thought Police not be lost to history.

  14. Impressive thoughts by Mr. Garner.

    I, too, am always amazed at how readily today’s political left are ready to judge the thoughts and actions of people from a different era. I guess the whole “tolerance” thing only goes as far as the stuff they already approve of.

    The monument is to Mississippi Confederate soldiers. Let people decide for themselves what that represents.

  15. Interesting comments. Reality check……

    Vitter will fold up like a cheap suit and give those blacks exactly what they want. Count on it.

  16. Tail wagging the dog again. 13% controlling 87%. It is history. Why the continuing re-write? Get a life or better yet, get a job.

  17. The History Dept version puts the stature in perspective, ie. the “how we got here.” This perspective is why history is important.

    The Daily MS and Daily Ledger version is divisive and inflammatory – as well as verbose and tangential . This perspective is how newspapers sell ads.

  18. To place a permanent statement on a monument that an older generation, who served in the war erected, is in very poor taste! It also violates Mississippi Code 1972 55-15-81, this action by the University is illegal. However, most PC scholars see themselves as above the law.

  19. Serious question please. Who placed the monument? Who paid for it?

    It seems that the organization who placed it, paid for it, should be consulted. If it was the United Daughters of the Confederacy, they should be included in the discussion.

    Also, Vitter has stated he wanted to respect the process began by the previous chancellor. Well, a previous administration must have approved the monument as is, isn’t changing it now disrespectful of that administration?

    Just dump the whole idea and let people make their own decisions.

  20. If it’s a monument to the dead, why is it not in the cemetery? In the twenty years after the war, these monuments were put in cemeteries. In the 1890s, they started putting them in town squarers and other prominent places. Why? To celebrate the Jim Crow take-over of political power within the state, which began with the state constitution of 1890 and was enforced through a campaign of racial terror against African Americans. Consider the lynching of Nelse Patton on the courthouse lawn in Oxford in 1908: rather than wait for due process of law, a lynch mob, led by former US Senator William Sullivan, broke him out of jail, shot him, cut off his ears, penis, and testicles and hung him from a tree outside the south-side entrance to the courthouse, not 20 feet from the Confederate statue erected there in 1907. Both the statue and the lynching reflected Jim Crow Democracy and the political dominance of white supremacy. Are white Mississippians too ‘politically correct’ to talk about Jim Crow and what really happened?

  21. More: 2,000 people attended the lynching of Patton on the square. The population of Oxford in 1910 was 2,000. The same people who put the statues in the square and the circle were also the same people who lynched black people on the courthouse steps. Forgive me if I don’t believe their cause was ‘holy and just’

  22. Monuments to the dead should be placed in cemeteries?

    Interesting. So the Lincoln memorial should be moved to a cemetery? Thomas Jefferson…..slave holder….should his memorial be moved to a cemetery? There are statues of Grant…..sleeve holder…..in Norther cites, should they be moved?

    And I guess when James Meredith passes, we move that statue as well.

    Of course these are extreme foolish statements on my part, but they respond to the foolish, hysterical comments by Luke. Whether the incident he mentions is true or not, it has nothing to do with the campus statue.

    Statue Lives Matter

  23. Either the statues, as their defenders say, are simple memorial to the dead, or they are symbols of some larger purpose or meaning. No one says that the Lincoln, Jefferson, or Meredith monuments are simple memorials to individual people. All of them reflect, very consciously, a greater meaning — nationhood, American freedom, or educational inclusion. Do the confederate statues also reflect some broader meaning? That’s what the historians are saying, and using the context of Jim Crow to show it. If it’s just a memorial to dead soldiers, then yes, move it the cemetery. If it’s not, own up to it. You can’t have it both ways.

  24. I’m a historian, and I’ve studied this sort of thing for a long time. I wrote a book about how Reconstruction was commemorated. One thing that maybe isn’t obvious that I think might clarify some of the issues for Ric is to point out that for the first several years after the Civil War, most memorials to Confederate soldiers were built in cemeteries, and they tended to be obelisks, which were a popular symbol for memorials to the dead in the nineteenth century. It was only after white southerners overthrew Reconstruction and were not worried about what anyone else thought that groups, primarily the United Daughters of the Confederacy, began putting memorials, not mostly statues of soldiers, in public spaces like courthouse squares and the University of Mississippi. But these monuments made an implicit argument that praised the Confederate dead for falling into line and doing what they were told, regardless of the reason for the war (i.e., protecting slavery). The rich folks who put up these monuments did it as much to keep poor whites in line, to prevent them from supporting political parties like the Populists, as they did to keep African Americans in line (pure violence was a lot simpler for that).

    Some of the comments suggest that the soldiers died “defending Mississippi”. Nonsense. If you want to be accurate, you should write, the soldiers died defending the interests of rich white people in Mississippi who profited from buying and selling and torturing human beings. A great historian called Vernon Burton from South Carolina made a brilliant argument a number of years ago, in a speech to the Sons of Confederate Veterans. South Carolina had won the Civil War, he told them. In 1860, a majority of South Carolinians were enslaved. By the end of 1865, they were all free. So South Carolina, collectively, won that war. It just depends on whether you think “Mississippi” includes everybody who lives there, or just the white people who supported slavery. And, as the new film coming out this spring, “The Free State of Jones” reminds us, not all white people in Mississippi supported slavery anyway. Some of them had the courage to fight, and die, opposing it.

  25. As all the varying comments indicate, there are huge disagreements over the meaning of these statues. Even in the writing of self described “historians”, it is easy to see political agendas. So again, both sides should stop telling others what to think and leave the statue without a plaque. Each of us can see it through our own eyes and hearts.

    All Lives Matter

  26. Ron:

    These are not “self-described ‘historians’,” but professional historians with PhDs earned at a variety of institutions across the United States over several decades. Visit the History Department’s website and see for yourself.

    Historians write history, not myth. To get a PhD, you need to write a dissertation that passes standards of evidence and analysis judged by other people with PhDs, usually the acknowledged experts in their fields. To publish a book, your manuscript also needs to pass standards of evidence and analysis determined by other experts. Unless one believes in the existence of a vast “left-wing” or “liberal” conspiracy that encompasses every single educational institution not only in the US but across the globe – as some people on this thread clearly do – then there are pretty significant reasons to heed the expertise of historians.

    Choosing to dismiss their knowledge out of hand because you don’t want to acknowledge painful historical truths is tantamount to contesting the fact that water is made of hydrogen and oxygen because you never liked science class.

  27. And if people want to study history through the work of accomplished professionals I congratulate them. We have history classes and a wonderful library. A small plaque in front of a statue is not the place for a dissertation on Civil War era Southern culture.

    A plaque with any statement is going to piss some people off, and don’t we have enough division already?

  28. the sons of the Confederate veterans should have a say so in this situation the University of Mississippi is owned by the state of Mississippi and not by liberal history professor take it from me who is History major at ole miss and have dealt with these liberal professors . People nowadays or trying to whitewash history. I believe the telling one’s left wing option is not what needs to be on this plaque…

    The plaque should say this:

    As War breaks out the University of Mississippi closed.. The students left to fight the war or northern aggression. This monument is placed here to memoralize the brave men who left the university and fight for their homeland. They would become known as the “University Greys” who fought bravely for their homeland of Mississippi

  29. How many more times do I need to say it? THE MONUMENT IS NOT DEDICATED TO THE MISSISSIPPI GREYS.

    A “history major” ought to know better. Especially one who claims to know so much.

  30. The sad irony is that everybody who is complaining about people being too sensitive and thin-skinned by demanding “political correctness” are, in reality, the most sensitive people of all. Complaining about “political correctness” is code for being a pathetic wuss. “It’s so hard being white these days.” “It’s so hard hearing the truth.” “The truth should be hidden in the library or history classes to spare my delicate constitution.” What’s most ironic of all? Just consider who would be most appalled by all this pathetic wussiness. Supporters of the Confederacy. They didn’t pretend to be something they weren’t. They didn’t hide from what they believed. They stood up and proclaimed as loudly as they could that slavery was the cornerstone of a strong, free, civilized republic. It’s sad that such manliness has been replaced by such embarrassing wimpiness. If you need the truth to be hidden from public monuments then you are a wuss and an embarrassment to your ancestors.

  31. The truth that slavery was a prime cause of the civil war? Is there anyone who does not know that?

    Sounds like just another chance for those blacks to whine.

  32. Cops haul Proud Southerner away for committing a crime that carries significant prison time.

    Proud Southerner: “But I didn’t do it! I’m telling you, I’m telling the TRUTH! I didn’t do it!”

    Cops: “Shut up you whitewasher. We’ll decide what you did.”

    Proud Southerner is taken to court to be tried before a jury of his peers.

    Proud Southerner’s Attorney: “Proud Southerner did not commit this crime. Here are hundreds of pieces of incontrovertible evidence proving he didn’t do it.”

    [Each piece of evidence exonerating Proud Southerner is presented, one after another.]

    Prosecutor: “Men and women of the jury: don’t be fooled by this whitewashing of events. Don’t let this slick, ideological lawyer with his fancy degrees and condescending accent convince you of his opinion. For that’s all it is. It’s just his opinion. It’s simply his own biased, politically-driven point of view, nothing more. It’s not any better than your opinion. My opinion is that Proud Southerner is guilty! Listen to your consciences! Don’t let the politically correct lies dissuade you!”

    The jury retreats to deliberate. I wonder if they will listen to the evidence? Or I wonder if they will assume that all evidence is a liberal conspiracy to plague the world with political correctness?

    But what I really wonder is if one’s attitude towards evidence and the truth changes just a little bit when one’s own life hangs in the balance? Oh yes, I wonder indeed…

  33. Telling the truth matters.

    Many on here believe that there is no “historical truth,” that claims to it are simply liberal propaganda, are simply “whitewashing.”

    But if any of you who believe that were accused of a crime that you didn’t commit, I think you would suddenly care quite a bit about “the truth.”

    If you don’t think the truth matters when it conflicts with your ideology, then you can’t think it matters when you’re being tried for a crime you didn’t commit.

    Cheapening the truth is destructive. When your life hangs in the balance, you’ll care about that.

  34. Huh? Why should the plaque not tell the truth? It’s as easy for the plaque to tell the truth as to lie. The choice seems simple. Why on earth would anybody prefer that the plaque lies? That seems like lunacy.

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