Vardaman Hall will be renamed and informational plaques will be placed on at least eight other sites on the University of Mississippi campus — the apparent final steps in a years-long process to explain the environment in which certain monuments, buildings and street names were created or named.
The university made the announcement on Thursday.
Vardaman Hall is named for former Mississippi Gov. James K. Vardaman, who “actively promoted some morally odious practice,” according to a university press release. The building once served as the home to the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation.
Plaques will be erected explaining the history of three sites: Lamar Hall, Longstreet Hall and George Hall. Lamar Hall bears the name of of L.Q.C. Lamar, professor at the university, Confederate ambassador to Russia, member of Congress, secretary of the interior, and associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Longstreet Hall was named to honor Augustus Longstreet, the second chancellor the university who served from 1849 to 1856. George Hall was named for J.P.Z. George, a U.S. senator from 1881-1897.
One single plaque will be placed to contextualize four other sites: Barnard Observatory, the Croft building, the Lyceum and Hilgard Cut, noting that these four projects were built with slave labor.
The university will accept public input for the potential contextualization of two other sites: the Confederate cemetery near the old basketball arena and stained glass windows in Ventress Hall depicting Confederate soldiers.
The decisions were recommended to Ole Miss Chancellor Dr. Jeffrey Vitter by an advisory committee of faculty, students and alumni leaders he commissioned in 2016.
“Contextualization is an important extension of a university’s responsibility to educate and provides an opportunity to learn from history,” Vitter said in a release. “As an educational institution, it is imperative we foster a learning environment and fulfill our mission by pursuing knowledge and understanding.”
Perhaps no learning institution in the country memorializes the Civil War more explicitly than the University of Mississippi, and no other state more directly supports the Confederacy’s most notable image, the Confederate battle flag.
The committee was tasked with studying building names, road names and monuments bearing complex histories.
The latest announced actions follow years of work to contextualize those symbols on campus. The work began under former Chancellor Dan Jones, who in 2014 brought outside consultants to campus to assess many of the university’s symbols.
The biggest change from that report was the creation of a new administrative position on campus, the vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion. Also in 2014, the university renamed Confederate Drive to Chapel Lane.
In 2015, students led a charge to stop flying the state flag, which is the last in the nation with the Confederate battle emblem. The faculty and interim administration backed that plan, furling the flag since, replacing it in 2017 with a Mississippi bicentennial banner.
When Vitter took over as chancellor in 2016, he commissioned a new panel of campus leaders to build upon Jones’ 2014 action plan. Last year, the university erected its first historical marker at the site of the Confederate monument at the center of campus. Two attempts were needed to fulfill the goal of the committee.
In the summer of 2016, the university permanently shelved the song “Dixie,” which had been played for decades at sporting events as an unofficial fight song.
The university indicated in its release Thursday that the work of the contextualization committee is complete.
“Over the past year, the Ole Miss family has engaged in profoundly important dialogue to more fully understand and articulate our historical truths — so that we can learn from that past and chart a bold course forward for our great flagship university and all those we serve,” Vitter wrote in a letter.