Crews move Confederate monument at University of Mississippi after years of student activism

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Workers move the Confederate statue at the University of Mississippi on Tuesday. (©Bruce Newman)

UNIVERSITY — As the sun rose Tuesday morning, workers began the process of moving the controversial Confederate monument at the University of Mississippi.

The 30-foot monument has greeted visitors at the university’s main entrance as the campus’ most visible ode to the Lost Cause since it was erected by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1906.

Students, faculty, staff and administrators adopted a student-developed plan in 2019 that would move the statue from its central location to a Confederate graveyard in a quieter corner of campus. The politically appointed board of trustees of the Institutions for Higher Learning signed off on the plan last month after several weeks of procedural delays.

Workers began disassembling the statue at dawn Tuesday morning to little fanfare. The date of the move, which university officials had broadly signaled would occur “as quickly as possible,” had not been announced publicly. As a worker began sawing the stone soldier off its pedestal at dawn, there were no bystanders. One university police officer watched from his parked patrol car.

Crews are expected to have completed the statue’s move to the cemetery by the end of the day.

The approved plans to move the statue were met with criticism as sketches of the renovated cemetery leaked. As additional details of the $1.15 million cemetery renovation trickled into the public sphere, students and faculty fumed over the plans.

One proposal, which was shared with IHL board members, called for the university to construct a well-lit brick path to the monument. A new marker and gravestones would also be added to the cemetery to “recognize the men from Lafayette County who served in the Union Army as part of the United States Colored Troops during the Civil War,” the proposal stated. 

Benches would be placed in the cemetery, and cameras would be installed around the cemetery to allow the University Police Department to monitor it.

Anne Twitty, associate professor of history at UM, was a member of the committee that in part was tasked with creating plaques that contextualized vestiges of slavery and the Confederacy around campus.   

“This fantasy that you can go into this resting place and put up headstones when you don’t know exactly who was still there, and when you don’t know where they’re located on that plot — that strikes me as deeply offensive,” Twitty told Mississippi Today last month. “I think what that rendering sort of suggests is a kind of Confederate-palooza that the university wants to establish in its back forty and it just means that they’re replacing one site for Lost Cause nostalgia, which is currently at the entrance to our campus, with another one.”

University of Mississippi Chancellor Glenn Boyce released a statement in the wake of the criticism, clarifying that the leaked proposal was not the final one and that several aspects of the leaked renderings would not be implemented.

The students who developed the plans to move the monument from the center of campus criticized university leaders for the proposed cemetery renovations, saying in a statement they “strongly oppose any measures that would uplift white supremacist narratives or glorify the Confederacy.” 

“We urge the University of Mississippi administration to refrain from renovations of the cemetery that would amplify ahistorical and racist Confederate narratives,” the students said. “The unanimously passed resolution called for relocating the monument to a less prominent place on campus. We did not co-sign onto a project beautifying the Lost Cause.”