Historians at the University of Mississippi are objecting to language inscribed on a recently installed campus plaque that accompanies a statue of a Confederate soldier.
In a written statement, 33 faculty members in the department of history have called on the chancellor, Jeffrey S. Vitter, to revise the plaque to recognize slavery as a central cause of the Civil War, The Clarion-Ledger reports. Their proposed language also contextualizes the statue as one of thousands erected across the South to promote the “Lost Cause” ideology during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This idea sought to glorify the Confederacy, and, for many, the statues stood as oppressive symbols of white supremacy.
The current plaque, installed in mid-March, does not refer to slavery, nor to the broader context of how the statues are connected to segregation. Part of the proposed language reads:
Historians today recognize slavery as the central cause of the Civil War and freedom as its most important result. Although deadly and destructive, the Civil War freed four million enslaved Southerners and led to the passage of constitutional amendments that promised national citizenship and equal protection of laws, regardless of race. This monument, created in 1906 to recognize the sacrifice of Mississippians who fought to establish the Confederacy as a slaveholding republic, must now remind us that Confederate defeat brought freedom, however imperfect, to millions of people.
The historians aren’t the first group to raise concerns about the plaque’s language. Shortly after the original language was announced, members of the university’s student chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People provided administrators with alternative language that describes how “segregationists embraced the monument as a symbol of the Confederacy.”
Following a meeting with those students, Mr. Vitter said the university would consider additional input regarding the plaque’s language before April 8, according to The Clarion-Ledger. A committee will then decide what specific revisions, if any, it will make.
Charles Ross, director of African-American studies and an associate professor of history, was the only member of the history department not to sign the letter, according to the newspaper. Although he commended those who signed the document, he said, he chose to remain impartial because he is on the committee that will be considering the changes.