The fight to ban the modern display of the Confederate battle emblem continues to grow, and the University of Mississippi, also known as Ole Miss, joined the initiative Monday after Interim Chancellor Morris H. Stocks approved the lowering and furling of the state flag at its Oxford campus.
Student senators voted 33-15 to ask school administrators to take down the flag bearing the Confederate cross in the upper left corner, which will be deposited in the university archives. Ole Miss is now the fourth Mississippi public university to not fly the state flag, joining Jackson State University, Mississippi Valley State University and Alcorn State University.
This is significant progress for the push toward a new Mississippi state flag and total removal of the Confederate flag as a modern symbol of the South. Mississippi is the only state that still incorporates the emblem in its current state flag. In 2001, a referendum for a new state flag did not pass after 64 percent of voters decided to keep the old flag.
It has been 14 years since the referendum, and the public’s opinion about the modern use of the Confederate flag has greatly changed. With more universities ceasing to fly the state flag, Mississippi’s legislature needs to adopt a new flag design.
This removal is also a great milestone for Ole Miss, considering its history during the civil rights movement. James Meredith, a black U.S. veteran, was accepted by the university in 1962, but had his admission revoked after the university learned of his race.
A federal court required Ole Miss to enroll Meredith, but he had to be escorted onto campus by U.S. marshals after Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett tried to prevent him from entering school grounds. In what became known as the Ole Miss riot of 1962, segregationists protested against the desegregation of the university and Meredith’s enrollment.
The removal of the state flag from Ole Miss is just a stepping stone in the fight to take down the Confederate flag and its historical association with slavery, racism and white supremacy.
While the Confederate flag may be considered historically significant, it should not used as a modern symbol of “Southern pride.”