Forty years later, UM erected a monument commemorating civil rights efforts: a statue of Meredith walking leisurely toward an open concrete doorway. Four words ringed the outside of the top of the doorway: courage, opportunity, knowledge, persistence. These same words adorn the frame of former Chancellor Robert Khayat’s—the white man who held that position during the monument’s creation and installation—official portrait. Many have applauded UM for confronting its history with this monument, but it ignores crucial aspects of the African American fight for equality.
This paper takes a critical reading of the monument, evaluating the narratives it perpetuates and stifles. It fails to embody the struggles to obtain and exercise rights and the mass resistance backlash. It also silences the desegregation attempts before Meredith; the efforts of African American students after Meredith to gain ground toward integration; and its own embroiled history as students pushed—and partially failed—UM to allow and accept a Civil Rights Monument on campus.
1. Nick Bryant, “The Black Man Who Was Crazy Enough to Apply to Ole Miss,” in Journal of Blacks in Higher Education 53 (Autumn 2006): 60.
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