University, Miss (TLV) – The University of Mississippi has begun construction on a “context plaque” at the base of the Confederate Memorial Statue on the East side of The Circle on University Avenue.
According to a March 11, 2016 letter from Chancellor Jefferey Vitter and an official University of Mississippi press release, the construction should be complete by the end of March.
The inscription engraved on the plaque 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.”
The University says the creation of the plaque is in response to a key recommendation of the 2014 action plan.
“Our university has worked hard to recognize our history while also living up to our promise as one of America’s most hospitable, welcoming and inclusive institutions,” Chancellor Vitter said. “The placement of this plaque puts this statue into proper context and affirms, as in our UM Creed, our respect for the dignity of each person.”
“Many hours of study and thought have gone into the design and wording of the plaque,” Vitter said.
Mississippi state law prohibits the removal or alteration of any memorial or statues dedicated to veterans of war, including the Civil War. The same law also prohibits the renaming of streets dedicated to Civil War veterans.
Former Chancellor Dan Jones was ousted from the University of Mississippi within a year of renaming “Confederate Drive” to “Chapel Lane” in 2014. The street was named such because it goes to the Confederate Cemetery on campus where over 1,000 Confederate soldiers are buried, mostly from the Battle of Shiloh. The renaming of the street is being challenged in court by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and it was rumored that Jones’ firing was exacerbated by the renaming of “Confederate Drive.”
“The benefit of placing a plaque at the Confederate statute on campus provides context and helps us better understand our past,” said David Sansing, emeritus professor of history. “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.”