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MUW name change: Research sheds new light on Reneau's history


Kristin Mamrack



New research shows the name Reneau -- one of two new names under consideration for Mississippi University for Women -- is not tied to slave-holding plantations as previously thought, say MUW officials. 


"As it turns out, she was not a part of a slave-holding family," Perry Sansing, assistant to the MUW president, said of Sallie Reneau, who was key in the creation of the country''s first public university for women. 


MUW President Dr. Claudia Limbert said she will select one of two possible names for the university: Reneau University or Waverley University, which MUW officials said references an 1815 novel, "Waverley," by Sir Walter Scott. 


The Lowndes NAACP wrote a letter to Limbert in April, urging the university not to consider either Reneau or Waverley, saying both conjured up images of the old South which are disrespectful to African Americans. 


In the 19th century, Reneau lobbied the state legislature to get what is now MUW built. 


Reneau previously was thought to be a slave owner in pre-Civil War Mississippi, but research conducted by Sansing''s father, Dr. David Sansing, a retired professor of history at The University of Mississippi, shows otherwise. 


"On three occasions, the Mississippi Legislature passed legislation, at her request, to create a women''s college," said Perry Sansing. "It was once before the Civil War and twice before the Reconstruction Legislature, which was composed of Republicans and African Americans. There were also some errors we have found in the genealogical report on the Internet about the Reneau family. What our research shows is (Sallie Reneau) was a remarkable, remarkable person.  


"And there''s been misinterpretation about a request she made to the governor of Mississippi, in 1861," he added. "She did not seek to create an outfit of women that would fight Union troops. That is not correct. What she was proposing to the governor was to create a relief association, as nurses, to attend to the (Civil War) wounded, so it was really, in some ways, very similar to what the Red Cross does." 


Also known as "''Tis Sixty Years Since,''" "Waverley" is generally regarded as the first historical novel and primarily is the story of a young Englishman who travels to Scotland and becomes involved in the Jacobite revolution of 1745. 


During MUW''s convocation ceremony August 10, Limbert will reveal which name she will recommend to the board of the state Institutions of Higher Learning. 


If approved by the IHL, the name will be submitted for approval to the state Legislature. 


The NAACP previously objected to the names Reneau University and Waverley University as choices for MUW. 


"The names Reneau and Waverley are both derived from slave-holding plantations in the Old South," wrote NAACP President Lavonne Harris. "Neither is appropriate as a replacement name for one of our state universities in the year 2009. 


"The NAACP rejects the argument that support for the name Waverley stems from a work of literary fiction by Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott and that support for the name is not connected to the nearby Waverley Plantation," she added. "The name Waverley, regardless of its spelling, conjures up thoughts of the Old South and the degradation of African Americans through the institution of slavery." 


Harris could not be reached to comment on the new research indicating Reneau was not a member of a slave-holding family.




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Reader Comments

Article Comment Slate commented at 7/11/2009 11:24:00 PM:

How embarrassing for Ms. Harris, a mind is a terrible thing to waste.


Article Comment Ellen commented at 7/12/2009 1:35:00 AM:

I think its disrespectful to me as a MUW alumni to change the name.. Obviously Limbert could care less who she disrespects...


Article Comment Logical Thinker commented at 7/12/2009 8:51:00 AM:

Reviewing this logically, the logical conclusion for a new name should be Mississippi State University, Columbus. 'dot, period' This should be the only name for consideration. If MSU, Columbus is not chosen, then leave the name alone.... This is silly.


Article Comment Notshrill Supporter commented at 7/12/2009 12:29:00 PM:

"As it turns out, she was not a part of a slave-holding family," Perry Sansing, assistant to the MUW president, said of Sallie Reneau, who was key in the creation of the country's first public university for women.

Thank YOU, Perry Sansing; thank you very much.

As it turns out? As it turns out! Did Sansing just uncover some new details as to the life and times of Sallie Reneau? Or - as is most likely the case - did he and Claudia Limbert finally do a little checking into MUW's history and the WOMEN who worked to ensure that WOMEN had public higher educational opportunities in this state?

The name is not really the issue to most MSCW/MUW alums (and long-time supporters) - it is Limbert's willy nilly drive to homogenize a wonderful and unique institution, watering down its mission and unique selling features so that its ability to compete in today's higher education marketplace is even further eroded.

Until valid and current and applicable research is conducted; until its women's mission is endorsed and reiterated; until its funding is secure, appropriate and equitable NO ONE should endorse a proposed name change for America's first public institution of higher learning for women.

As it turns out, MUW alums are not "shrill" opponents of change, but rather reasonable and stalwart SUPPORTERS of Mississippi University for Women.


Article Comment Davie commented at 7/12/2009 12:32:00 PM:

I respectfully disagree with Ellen. Changing the name is not disrespectful to the alumni of MUW (my wife is one). Having the words "for Women" as a part of the name of a public university is disrespectful. In 2009, it makes as much sense as "Jackson State University for Negroes" or Mississippi State University for Caucasians." If you want a discriminary name, form a private school and pay for it yourself. Just don't ask us taxpapers to finance it for you. This move is long overdue. Congratulations to MUW for finally doing so.


Article Comment KJ commented at 7/12/2009 2:50:00 PM:

Nobody with a brain believes the line that "Waverley" as a choice has anything to do with a novel. Everyone with a brain should have severe doubts about the validity of Sansing's newest (and very convenient) history lesson. Granted, even people with no credibility are capable of telling the truth on occasion. But if they aren't citing their sources and publishing peer-reviewed work, then it should be viewed as marketing rather than scholarship.

Message over substance is what we've come to expect from this administration.


Article Comment Fred commented at 7/13/2009 10:58:00 AM:

The NAACP puts foot in mouth. This happens weekly. Big deal.


Article Comment J commented at 7/13/2009 1:56:00 PM:

Hmmm I wonder which one Limbert is going to choose? This new historical discovery doesn't make it too obvious does it?


Article Comment wanna go to college commented at 7/13/2009 11:02:00 PM:

Logical Thinker...I agree with you!! What a couple of STUPID NON-MEMORABLE names to choose from!!!! There are many graduating high school kids and non-traditional students like myself who think it is absolutley ridiculous to call the "W" anything but MSU-Columbus Campus. There are too many educated idiots at the "W" who need to pull there heads out of their b*tt"s and take a breath of fresh air. These people don't know their a*s from a hole in the ground. Waverly and Renault (or whatever it is) is RIDICULOUS!!! Both are CRUDDY NAMES for a state funded university and couldn't attract buzzards with a gut wagon parked out front. Give the school a name we can ALL be proud of...MSU-Columbus Campus!!


Article Comment Fred commented at 7/14/2009 10:39:00 AM:

MSU has 2 campuses and over 80 Extension Service centers. There is no reason to take on another campus.


Article Comment wanna go to college commented at 7/14/2009 3:04:00 PM:

What's your point Fred? I am fairly sure that each campus has their own administration...just as the Columbus campus will as well. Stretching (as you make it seem) the name to include the Columbus campus will not creat a name shortage (it's not like we have to drill for the letters). The whole reason for changing the name is to be more inclusive to those who want to go to college and to attract more students before the "W" becomes obsolete.


Article Comment Fred commented at 7/14/2009 5:45:00 PM:

My point is that the "W" will not be an extension of MSU because it is not financially feasible. I am well aware that both campuses have administration. Most colleges do. Anyways that idea has been entertained before and been shot down.

Your comment really didn't have anything to do with my post and barely made any sense at all.


Article Comment wanna go to college commented at 7/14/2009 11:25:00 PM:

Sorry Fred...didn't mean to insult your intelligence, nor have you insult mine.
My point remains the same:
The whole reason for changing the name is to be more inclusive to those who want to go to college and to attract more students before the "W" becomes obsolete.
A name like "MSU-Columbus Campus" reaches a more diverse group of people who want to go to college without all the racial implications being conjured up by many due to the now narrowed list of just two names (this includes me...I wanna work on a master's degree). But who knows?? I'm certainly not a
Again, I apologize for seeming rude to you.


Article Comment Jill commented at 7/16/2009 5:08:00 PM:

Hey, I've got an idea! Let's kick the men out, and leave the name the same!!!!

If a man truly wants an education, he can drive 23 miles to MSU.


Article Comment Jill commented at 7/16/2009 6:48:00 PM:

Hey, I've got an idea! Let's kick the men out, and leave the name the same!!!!

If a man truly wants an education, he can drive 23 miles to MSU.


Article Comment Jill commented at 7/16/2009 6:49:00 PM:

Hey, I've got an idea! Let's kick the men out, and leave the name the same!!!!

If a man truly wants an education, he can drive 23 miles to MSU.


Article Comment Jander commented at 7/18/2009 12:03:00 PM:

Just a thought...since the 'university' is located in a historical site known as Columbus, who discovered America also...I think a great name for the university is...COLUMBUS MS UNIVERSITY...CMU...then people who attend the college can say, hey, I go to the "C"...what a concept!


Article Comment Mandy commented at 7/26/2009 5:03:00 PM:

why not just cut the women part off if they're so hyped on changing the name (which i see nothing wrong with. it's been muw for a long time and i don't see why changing the name will do so much.). if jackson can have mississippi college, why not simply name it mississippi university?

if msu can't financially support another campus, which i highly doubt since i'm pretty sure they're little old ladies league would love something else to decorate that historically important, then name it waverly, i guess. there is the waverly mansion and the waverly golf course. why not waverly university? it's gonna end up that way anyway or the abbreviated waverly-reneau university.


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