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Nekkita Beans, a Mississippi native and president of the University of Mississippi’s Black Student Union, stood center stage in a campus auditorium reading aloud the history of a group of men who fought to keep people like her enslaved, illiterate and, in many ways, invisible. The “University Greys,” an infantry unit made up mostly of college students, had fought for the cause of the Confederate Army and in the process “suffered one hundred percent casualties — killed, wounded or captured.”
A stained-glass window depicting the troop was dedicated in their honor on the campus of Ole Miss, as the university is commonly known, in 1891. On March 2, 2018, nearly 120 years later, a plaque with the University Greys’ history was added near the window as a way to “contextualize” the window’s place on campus. In the past, the troop was celebrated for its heroism in battle, but the new plaque also acknowledges the injustice of the cause for which they fought, and the harsh legacy of slavery.
The plaques, which acknowledge that past, are a central piece of the university’s effort to move beyond its reputation for being unwelcoming and hostile toward African-Americans.
But racist incidents are a part of everyday life for students here, many say, and students and alumni question whether acknowledging the institution’s racist history is enough to overcome it. Black and white students say the plaques are a good first step, but more will need to be done to help the university move forward.
Read the full article on Ole Miss by Delece Smith-Barrow at The Hechinger Report