Notable Moments in Confederate Heritage 2014: Part Six

Having arrived at the final two notable moments in Confederate heritage, we bring you this year’s runner-up:

Number Two: The University of Mississippi Wakes Up

In some ways it’s no surprise that the University of Mississippi’s behind the times when it comes to Confederate heritage. After all, it took its namesake state until 1995 to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment ending slavery … and eighteen more years to forward the notice of that action to Washington. This February the statue commemorating the entry of James Meredith into the university was vandalized. Confederate heritage advocates (including Carl “Hey Arnold!” Roden and Connie “All Alone on the Sidewalk” Chastain) donned their tin foil hats and declared that it was all a Yankee plot, a false flag operation. As usual, they were wrong: university authorities concluded that several sweet southern boys had been at the bottom of the incident (the heritage folks overlooked this, as is their wont: the truth hurts). In fact, in a model of poor timing, the Mid-South Flaggers quickly publicized their interest in flagging the sesquicentennial of the battle of Fort Pillow, where Confederate soldiers under the command of Nathan Bedford Forrest slaughtered surrendering African American soldiers on April 12, 1864, committing a war crime that heritage advocates have been in denial about ever since (just as they are in denial about Forrest’s connection to the Ku Klux Klan).

University officials saw things differently. Realizing that they had a problem on their hands, they reassessed the university’s celebration of Confederate heritage, something the university had already in years past attempted to mute. Their proposals, however modest, led to another outbreak of protests by the usual suspects … including none other than H. K. Edgerton, who did not enjoy in 2014 the visibility that was once his. Thus, it came as something of a surprise when members of the Mid-South Flaggers figured out that there were white supremacist nationalists in their midst (something that their fellow flaggers, the Virginia Flaggers, always deny, despite clear evidence to the contrary provided by their photographer and others). They did not embrace the association (again unlike the Virginia Flaggers) and they were not blind to it (unlike Ben Jones and the SCV). In highlighting this reaction on this blog I appear to have struck a nerve. That action should not obscure the Mid-South Flaggers’ rather distasteful behavior in other matters connected with university officials.

We’ve now reached the end of the year, and it looks as if the protests have been ineffective to date. An effort to get a series of propositions on the Mississippi ballot have done little but to make residents of other states with their own Confederate heritage problems say “thank God for Mississippi.” One suspects, however, that efforts to end the use of “Ole Miss” may not fare quite as well. Change may be slow, but it’s happened before.

17 thoughts on “Notable Moments in Confederate Heritage 2014: Part Six

  1. leo December 29, 2014 / 10:23 am

    I take issue with your statement – “it’s no surprise that the University of Mississippi’s behind the times when it comes to Confederate heritage”. The University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) is very in step with modern times and is much more aware how the confederacy is a burden to race relations than most.

    Please do not lump my university in with the neo-confederate crowd.

    • Brooks D. Simpson December 29, 2014 / 10:33 am

      I disagree. The University began understanding in the 1990s how its image was problematic, and it’s been catching up ever since. That it recognizes that it has an issue is welcome news. Moreover, it’s also clear that there are groups that deplore the progress that has been made. As for the “neo-confederate” crowd, I don’t use that term, so I can’t lump anyone in with a group that I don’t recognize as analytically useful.

  2. leo December 29, 2014 / 10:31 am

    In addition, the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) has NEVER held a calibration of confederate heritage during my enrolment there. The university officially disassociated itself from confederate imagery under Chancellor Fortune.

    • Brooks D. Simpson December 29, 2014 / 10:57 am

      I think you need to read the links, Leo. The 2014 movement indicates a further distancing. This is what has disturbed certain people who are fond of the Confederacy or who simply want a return to the good ole days.

      That the university enjoys the support of people like you is a good thing and bodes well.

  3. Leo December 29, 2014 / 11:21 am

    I became EXTREMELY angry when I saw your opening statement stating the University of Mississippi is behind the times. To be honest, I felt personally attacked because I know people at the university who have fought these heritage groups/ neo-confederates/ bigots/ fools, for far too long. I’ve delt with them myself on occasion.

    I need to calm down before going back to read anything.

    • Brooks D. Simpson December 29, 2014 / 11:32 am

      The university administration basically admitted that it has a problem and that it is seeking to address it. I think that’s a good thing. These changes take time and they don’t come without resistance. It’s not the first time it has addressed this issue, and the Meredith statue in itself was a recognition of dealing with a past many are now not proud of.

  4. Leo December 29, 2014 / 11:22 am

    BTW, that should have said celebration and not calibration. Bad eyes.

  5. leo December 29, 2014 / 11:59 am

    I’m calm now.

    Okay, I get this post and now understand the point, but that first statement – “In some ways it’s no surprise that the University of Mississippi’s behind the times when it comes to Confederate heritage. After all, it took its namesake state until 1995 to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment ending slavery … and eighteen more years to forward the notice of that action to Washington” just comes off as a judgmental indictment against the university. I think you could have worded it better than that. I’m sorry, but that is how I view it. Maybe I’m too close to the situation on the ground here. I realize I should have carefully read the entire thing, but emotion got the better of me, and I’m honestly sick of these “confederate groups” using my university as a soapbox.

    Just so I may clarify, these confederate groups are generally scorned here in Oxford. No one really likes them or wants them here. Twitter feeds in town typically light up with messages of “stupid is in town” when these clowns show up to protest. Most people either ignore them or flip them off through car windows.

    • Brooks D. Simpson December 29, 2014 / 12:10 pm

      A public university is beholden to its state, and that at times can limit what the university can do. Private universities don’t face that sort of pressure.

      I think most reasonable people understand that Confederate heritage groups, however noisy they are, represent a small minority of the southern population. This helps to explain their ineffectiveness. It is their ability to use social media to spread their distorted view of history that makes them a problem for those of us who want to understand the American past.

      • Michael Rodgers December 29, 2014 / 1:11 pm

        Yes to public/private, small minority, ineffective, and distorted. No to ability and problem.

        Their use of social media is what has led to many of your “notable moments,” so there’s not much ability and definitely not a problem — they’re their own worst enemy. Now politicians know that taking down a flag is easy; the only pushback they’ll suffer is a sweet old lady with a walker.

        The problem is the entrenchment of the Lost Cause myth from Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind and the anti-civil rights movement. The antics of the heritage crowd help us to shed light on the problem and to propose and obtain actual — proper historical context — solutions.

        • Brooks D. Simpson December 29, 2014 / 1:39 pm

          The use of social media combined with search engines and the uncritical readers who swallow such stuff do pose a challenge. You are correct that at the same time it’s easier to counter what is known and broadcast.

          It’s just like plagiarism. Nowadays it’s easier to plagiarize and easier to catch someone who plagiarizes. Just ask Connie Chastain.

      • leo December 29, 2014 / 2:53 pm

        I have no disagreement with you as far as the state government of Mississippi being behind the times. Our governor is a twit and the legislature is a cesspool of shortsighted jackasses.

        However, I still contend the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) is leaps and bounds ahead of state government in both race relations and dealing with Lost Cause Mythology. We freely admit our faults and are dealing with them. As you mentioned, progress can be slow, but we are not behind the times here. I admit Ole Miss attracts these confederate heritage types like dog shit draws flies, but they have no power or influence on campus. They use us as a means of garnering media attention – nothing more.

        I invite you to visit Oxford one day and see for yourself.

  6. leo December 29, 2014 / 2:58 pm

    I firmly believe the internet and social media give the confederate heritage crowd a larger sense of power than they deserve. They make for good ratings in local media, but mostly due to the emotional element of the story than anything of substance these groups have to say.

  7. Jimmy Dick December 29, 2014 / 6:32 pm

    I am here in Maryland at the Gaylord National Harbor Resort for a doctoral residency. Today after attending a plenary given by a rather remarkable woman who happens to be the first black woman to be board certified in her field of maternal-fetal medicine and author of the Pulitzer nominated book Ditchdigger’s Daughter, I was exiting down the corridor to my next session. Looking up I saw the various state flags displayed in the order of admission to the US. The Mississippi state flag came into view and I stopped dead in my tracks.

    It was easy to recognize the state flag of Mississippi because it displays the symbol of racism, tyranny, and oppression in the upper left corner. Surrounding me were a couple hundred doctoral students and faculty of which more than half were black women. Three-quarters of the attendees are not white. I stood there as they passed around me and then I started to laugh.

    Despite everything the racists have tried to do to block the advancement of non-whites in the US for well over a century and a half they have failed. The fact that I was a minority in a sea of doctoral students shows a massive epic fail on the part of the racist scum. There was the flag of Mississippi representing the ugly side of humanity and the proof of their failure was over 100 black students going to their doctoral residency.

    That made my day.

    • Leo December 29, 2014 / 10:15 pm

      Our state flag is an embarrassment.

  8. Leo December 29, 2014 / 10:51 pm

    This is worth reading.

    Those of us who wanted a new flag didn’t have a say in the alternate design proposed. The new design on the ballot was given to us by the legislature. If I recall correctly, the first design proposed had a red canton with white stars, but the legislature changed it to blue because they said it looked too much like the flag of North Korea and was offensive to veterans. … Hold on … They changed the red canton because it was offensive to some Korean War veterans but the keep the Confederate flag knowing it is offensive to many African-Americans?

    Yes. … Our legislature is a collection of shortsighted Cretans who pander to the lowest common denominator.

    The entire campaign for the new flag was a mismanaged cluster, but that is a whole new story for another day.

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