March 12, 2016 11:38:23 PM
JACKSON -- A Confederate soldier statue that has stood for generations in a prominent spot on the University of Mississippi's Oxford campus will soon be accompanied by a plaque giving it historical context.
Work has started on the granite plaque at the base of the statue, and it should be finished by the end of the month, a university news release said Friday.
The addition is part of an effort announced in 2014 to promote racial diversity and provide context for Old South symbols.
The plaque says the Confederate statue was dedicated by local citizens in 1906 and was one of many monuments built across the South as aging Civil War veterans were dying. It also notes that the statue was a rallying point where a mob gathered in 1962 to oppose the admission of James Meredith as the first black student at Ole Miss.
"It was also at this statue that a local minister implored the mob to disperse and allow James Meredith to exercise his rights as an American citizen," the plaque says.
It continues, "On the morning after that long night, Meredith was admitted to the University and graduated in August 1963.
"This historic structure is a reminder of the University's past and of its current and ongoing commitment to open its hallowed halls to all who seek truth and knowledge and wisdom."
Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter, who became the university's top administrator in January, said the plaque confirms the Ole Miss creed of "respect for the dignity of each person."
The effort to provide historical context at Ole Miss was announced by Dan Jones, who was chancellor in 2014. The university renamed a short street near Fraternity Row from Confederate Drive to Chapel Lane. Jones recommended that the university do more to tell the history of slavery, secession, segregation and their aftermath in Mississippi.
In a student-led effort last fall, the university stopped flying the state flag because it includes the Confederate battle emblem. The display of Confederate symbols has come under broad debate across the South since last June, when nine black worshippers were massacred at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. The white man charged in the slayings had previously posed for photos online holding the rebel flag.
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