200 years of statehood: Ole Miss puts history on display for bicentennial

By M. Scott Morris

Daily Journal

OXFORD – Every year is a birthday year, but this one is special. The state of Mississippi will turn 200 years old on Dec. 10.

As 2017 progresses, bicentennial events will happen throughout the state, which was the 20th to join the United States of America. The J.D. Williams Library at the University of Mississippi kicked off its observance on Jan. 9 with the opening of a year-long exhibit, “Mississippi: 200 Years of Statehood.”

“It’s overwhelming to think about 200 years of history,” said Jennifer Ford, head of special collections and professor at Ole Miss. “We focused on themes, bringing out as many subjects as possible.”

Adam Robison | Buy at photos.djournal.com Jennifer Ford, head of special collections and professor at the University of Mississippi, said it’s hard to pick a favorite in the “Mississippi: 200 Years of Statehood” exhibit at J.D. Williams Library, but she’s drawn to the maps.

Adam Robison | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Jennifer Ford, head of special collections and professor at the University of Mississippi, said it’s hard to pick a favorite in the “Mississippi: 200 Years of Statehood” exhibit at J.D. Williams Library, but she’s drawn to the maps.

A team of curators filled cases in the library’s Faulkner Room with early documents, maps, sheet music, photographs, textbooks, political signs, recordings and much more. The exhibit is a sampling of items from the school’s Department of Archives and Special Collections.

Ford said it was hard to pick favorites, but she’s drawn to the maps, especially one by Johann Baptist Homann, imperial cartographer to Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI. It dates back to 1763.

“This map is known as ‘The Buffalo Map.’ It features a buffalo and a pelican in the same inset. Of course, buffalos and pelicans have no connection,” she said. “It was created before the Mississippi Territory was declared.”

The map was made to capitalize on curiosity about the New World, and people bought it even though it was wildly inaccurate.

“This sold. This was profitable,” Ford said.

Far more accurate maps from before and after the Civil War document the state’s evolution as big counties were broken up into smaller ones.

“It was an attempt during Reconstruction to create more fair representation in the Legislature,” Ford said.

Not far away, a case is dedicated to folklife. Arthur Palmer Hudson from Attala County spent his life collecting threads in the state’s proverbial tapestry.

From a Saltillo woman named Theodosia Bonnett Long, he transcribed the music for the song “Barbara Allen.”

“It dates back to the 17th century,” Ford said. “It shows where some of Mississippi’s music was coming from.”

The classical music case includes Leontyne Price, a leading star at the Metropolitan Opera. Elizabeth Taylor Greenfield was born a slave and became well known as a singer. Her nickname was the “Black Swan,” and a record company took the name as its own in her honor.

“Our country and rock case focuses on Elvis, but it also focuses on Tammy Wynette, Charley Pride and Jimmie Rodgers,” Ford said.

There’s also a songwriting notebook from Pontotoc’s own Jim Weatherly, who gave the world “Midnight Train to Georgia.”

The state politics case has one of Gov. Haley Barbour’s campaign signs and a Gov. Cliff Finch tie featuring an image of the lunchbox he carried around with him. The display also has this reminder: “You’ll be the winner when you vote for William Winter.”

Visitors will see Oxford’s own William Faulkner because his portrait is affixed to the wall of the Faulkner Room, but he’s not featured in the exhibit. Fans don’t need to fret because some of his manuscripts are on display in a neighboring room.

Adam Robison | Buy at photos.djournal.com The state politics case in the year-long bicentennial exhibit at the University of Mississippi includes a Gov. Cliff Finch tie featuring an image of the lunchbox he carried around with him.

Adam Robison | Buy at photos.djournal.com
The state politics case in the year-long bicentennial exhibit at the University of Mississippi includes a Gov. Cliff Finch tie featuring an image of the lunchbox he carried around with him.

Effectively, Ole Miss has been amassing these items since its founding. The pieces usually are not available to the public. Researchers work with the staff to get access to the materials they want to study.

“It’s like working in a treasure chest every day,” Ford said. “You’re always being reminded about gems in the collection.”

The archives keep growing as people donate their precious pieces of history so they’ll be protected in the university’s light-, temperature- and humidity-controlled environment. Staff members have crawled through dusty attics to gather some materials, though many collections are well organized when they arrive.

“We’re constantly getting new materials,” Ford said. “We prepare it. We make it accessible. We display it and let people know about what we have.”

“Mississippi: 200 Years of Statehood” has been a chance for Ford and collaborators Greg Johnson, Leigh McWhite and Lauren Rogers to take their own dives through the collections to uncover rarities with stories to tell.

“We all have a long history with exhibits, so we know how to do it and support the materials so it doesn’t damage them,” Ford said. “Preservation is a key component. We want to make sure that in another 100 years they’ll still be here.”

Each month, a team member will release a video that highlights items from one of the cases. Johnson’s first video covers the Mississippi blues.

“They’re no more than five minutes each,” Ford said. “They’re teasers to interest folks to come see in more detail.”

In addition, a series of brown bag lectures will be hosted in the Faulkner Room throughout the year. “Blues from Argentina” will be the topic at noon Feb. 3, followed by “Women of the Blues: A Tribute to Memphis Minnie and Beverly ‘Guitar’ Watkins” at noon Feb. 21.

Some of the lectures and videos will be celebrations of Mississippi and its people, while others will cover troubling topics. The curators wanted to give a wide survey of the state’s noble and ignoble history.

“There are so many aspects of Mississippi,” Ford said. “It’s such a complicated place.”

Adam Robison | Buy at photos.djournal.com Oxford resident Warren Steel looks over maps from the 1820s to the 1840s that are part of the “Mississippi: 200 Years of Statehood” exhibit at the University of Mississippi’s J.D. Williams Library.

Adam Robison | Buy at photos.djournal.com
Oxford resident Warren Steel looks over maps from the 1820s to the 1840s that are part of the “Mississippi: 200 Years of Statehood” exhibit at the University of Mississippi’s J.D. Williams Library.

Native Americans were removed from the territory and that provided cheap land for settlers. The population went from 9,000 in 1798 to 220,000 in 1820.

“Some came with slaves, some did not,” Ford said.

A letter from 1813 deals with the treatment of runaway slaves, while a selection of Mississippi textbooks testifies to a time when inconvenient facts were ignored.

“The textbooks talking about enslavement and African-American history were written in the latter part of the 20th century,” Ford said.

One case is dedicated to social justice, including the civil rights struggle, the state’s history of child labor and the women’s suffrage movement.

Curators wrote descriptions to go with the displays to invite visitors to take their own dives into the past.

“We try to make it grab you,” Ford said.

The Department of Archives and Special Collections at J.D. Williams Library is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday, except for university holidays. “Mississippi: 200 Years of Statehood” is free and open to the public, but Ford would appreciate a call at (662) 915-7408 to schedule large groups.

“We hope it gets people excited, so they can learn more about what they see here,” Ford said. “We hope it inspires people to learn more.”

scott.morris@journalinc.com

Twitter: @mscottmorris

Click video to hear audio

  • JB
    • Thile

      That is one fine participation trophy, JB. I feel like this one captures the spirit of the confederacy getting speedbagged by the northern boys a bit better, though. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/8bb23e9fcbc4912e9bc43e9f9186bacb93df67a1737cd818b7026dbeecd3f975.jpg

      • JB

        surrender Hell no not now not never.

        • Thile

          You did in 1865.

          • JB

            No sir If I had blown retreat on my bugle John Wayne would have turned over in his grave and took my bugle, Ha remember the Movie Horse Soldier they patrol down thru Mississippi destroying all that was in their path and on to Bator Rouge to regroup with the Yanks only a small Christian Military academy of cadets, young teen agers stood in their path. Where is ole Col Reb being held in detention now day? I hear that he is confined in a bear cage some where on Ole Miss- That poor ole soldier no respect and gratitude for his services

          • Thile

            So, just your ancestors should be sporting Crying Jordans, then? Fits them perfectly.

          • JB
          • Thile

            But it’s definitely not before your time to wear a participation ribbon that reads: “If you enjoyed getting your collective butts kicked by a superior force because you decided to become cannon fodder for the rich–who wanted to keep a system of using a race of people as farm equipment in place–you won!” You support the nation’s longest serving participation trophy (second longest-serving for the south is diabetes). Is that more “your time?”

          • JB

            Of course you will not be there but during the rapture i will ask my ancestors:

            1 Thessalonians 4:14-18King James Version (KJV)

            14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.

            15 For
            this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive
            and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are
            asleep.

            16 For
            the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice
            of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ
            shall rise first:

            17 Then
            we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in
            the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with
            the Lord.

            18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

          • Thile

            Which bible verse details you and other flag fondlers lets being dunked on everyday since 1861?

          • DWarren

            Thile, I find it sensationally sardonic that radical far Left progressives who invented participation trophies and implemented their disbursement as the new post-modern deconstructionism norm as the practical application of the radical far Left progressive Quixotic quest for the ignis fatuus of equality of outcome use their own invention and implementation of participation trophies as a disparagement of Southern History. Tell me, does the strident and boisterous hypocrisy of radical far Left progressive elitists know no bounds?

  • DWarren

    Ole Miss celebrating Mississippi History is like the Castro brothers certifying elections in Cuba–you know beyond the shadow of a doubt the product is going to be skewed and a perverted distortion of reality. Politically correct groupthink thought police deny students at all eight of Mississippi’s “institutions of higher learning” the very sight of the State Flag chosen by two-thirds of self-governing Mississippi voters to evidence their institutional and official repudiation of the concept of “the consent of the governed.” Ole Miss students are barred from playing and hearing Dixie. The Confederate Battle Flag has been expelled by progressive administrative fiat. Col. Reb has been summarily exiled from campus. The very idea that the University of Mississippi either takes pride in or is committed at all to Mississippi and the state’s heritage is as ludicrous as a screen door on a submarine.

    • JB

      Well put and i am getting out of all this nonsense posting since I am not a Mississippian only by birth. Good day to all enjoy your freedom its a gift from The Almighty God and Jesus Christ His Son

  • TWBDB

    I see the Limbaugh, Savage, Levin, etc. squawk-box has appeared. Whenever politically expedient, it appears some believe it prudent to trash institutes of higher learning and their fellow Americans. If we want “our country back” it is this squawk-box from which we must wrench it. I’ve come to know the more these hacks stand on their “patriot” soap box the more they intend to divide us.

    Ole Miss administrators and other MS institutes of higher learning determined to re-brand; as all good business leaders know to do when necessary. Ask yourself, is the sum total of your MS history, the sum total of your Southern heritage wrapped in the Confederate Battle Flag ? Is the sum total of MS’s history summed up in the four years of the Confederacy, the years when Ole Miss and other university leaders fought to keep blacks out of their institutes, or now when they’ve chosen to re-brand away from that constant reminder? People we are more than this: we are more than the political wrangling, the rhetoric, the lies and garbage which divides us. It is time to stop being lead by the nose by it.

    Anyone in the State of MS, Ole Miss student or not, is free to listen to Dixie, learn to play the song on the musical instrument of their choice, brandish the Confederate Battle Flag, and as evidenced here in the DJ forums each day speak freely about this symbol, the Confederacy, and it’s history and the residual affects now over 150 years after the end of the Civil War. So when you read or hear otherwise, remember statements to the contrary or just lies. Remember who tells them to you.

  • JB

    i don’t see Ole MIss history any worse than any other Universities within the USA. All American universities and colleges have had their share of troubles. Ole miss has been blessed with a great football program under Coach Johnny Vaught and a short term one under coach Hugh Freeze. from my memory they have never had a ligit basketball program – Baseball, yes very successful and again this coming season with national ratings, Women Soccer and rifle team one of the greatest. ole Miss not bad, but on the other hand Not good work to be done

  • JB

    when did ole miss take this name? univ of Miss 1861:

    The University Greys (or Grays) were Company A of the 11th Mississippi Infantry Regiment in the Confederate Army during the American Civil War. Part of the Army of Northern Virginia, the Greys served in many of the most famous and bloody battles of the war.

    The rifle company joined the 11th Infantry at its inception on May 4, 1861 after Mississippi
    seceded from the Union. Their name “University Greys” derived from the
    gray color of the men’s uniforms and from the fact that almost all of
    the Greys were students at the University of Mississippi.
    Nearly the entire student body (135 men) enlisted; only four students
    reported for classes in fall 1861, so few that the university closed
    temporarily.

    The most famous engagement of the University Greys was at Pickett’s Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg, when the Confederates made a desperate frontal assault on the Union entrenchments atop Cemetery Ridge.
    The Greys penetrated further into the Union position than any other
    unit, but at the terrible cost of sustaining 100% casualties—every
    soldier was either killed or wounded.

    After Gettysburg, the depleted Greys were merged with Company G (the
    “Lamar Rifles”). The unit continued to fight until the last days of the
    war.

    The story of the University Grays is memorialized in an opera composed by Dr. Arthur Kreutz
    who was Professor of Music at the University of Mississippi using text
    from the book of the same name by Zoe Lund Schiller. The opera was
    published by Ricordi of New York in 1961. A copy of the score resides in
    the library of the Northern Illinois University. The opera was given
    its first performance in 1961 at the University of Mississippi under the
    auspices of the Department of Music.]].[1]

    • TWBDB

      Thank you for the history lesson. Now here’s another:

      100 years after the University Grays fought in the Confederate Army defending the plantation owners ( Col Reb ) right to own slaves, in 1962, a former serviceman in the US Air Force, James Meredith, applied and was accepted at the University of Mississippi ( Ole Miss ). The registrar’s office revoked his enrollment once they learned of his race. A federal court ordered “Ole Miss” to admit him but when he arrived the Gov of Miss, Ross Barnett was standing on the steps blocking the way. Barnett was found in contempt, and Meredith tried again, this time met with violence on the steps pushing him back. Race riots ensued, two people killed, and it took 3000 federal troops to quell the violence. Meredith wasn’t new to college he’d transferred credit from Jackson State and graduated “Ole MIss” a year later in 1963. He worked to register black voters in MS and took a sniper bullet in 1966. 40 years later, a statue was erected to Meredith commemorating his contribution to society. In 2015, Ole Miss students awoke to find that statue defiled and a noose around it’s neck. Last year, that student avoided prison. This has to stop. It is now 2017, not 1867.

      It is this long page history the University of MS ( Ole Miss ) choose to turn. Don’t worry it will not ever be forgotten. It is permanently inscribed into the concrete annals of history.

      • JB

        Thank you for the history lesson, during the James Merdith incident I was in the Air Force and we were stationed in England, UK, We returned to Mississippi in Nov 1962. When entering into Oxford we were stopped by MPs we presented our military IDs And allowed tro pass thru with no further delay and told not get into any crowded area. In November 1962 I attended the EGG bowl and a young Soph Jim Wetherly came off the bench and won the ball game for the Rebels. It was all peacful at that ball game – and by the way my good friend from out Yocona way was one of the two murdered our there at that evil place. Ray Gunter should have never went out there, but he did, and it cost him his life.

        • TWBDB

          Thank you for your service. I’m sorry for the loss of your friend. And thank you for sharing your story. Ray Gunter need not have lost his life, to what many believe was a stray bullet fired by the rioters / protesters.

          Curious, you mention ‘evil place’ – who do you blame for your friend’s death?
          The rioters / protesters, the federal marshals they were firing upon, or James Meredith against whose admission into Ole Miss they were so inflamed they’d bring firearms and bottles filled with gasoline to the campus?

          As I said before, it is 2017, not 1867, or 1962 for that matter. It is time for this nonsense to stop.

          • JB

            There is no one that i blame. That was as what we refer to it as a “hot zone” and Ray and my cousin Charley Clark should have not been out there. In my opinion Mr Meredith had ever right to enter that school.. As you said he was an Air force vet and entitled to the vets education GI bill . I used it once for electronics engineering at Northwest Florida State.I agree its time for all this nonsense to stop Thanks for mentioning my service. the Air force provided travel for me and family of which we appreciate very much. we both grew up on a farm in Lafayette Co. 15 milie South of Oxford so Air Force life was good for us much better than picking cotton.Ha1 and by the way its a small world. I once worked with a retired Army Major who was the commander of the MPs we never talked very much about it . It was disturbing for both. wishing you a very good day. Does Parrish Alford still work for the DJ?

          • TWBDB

            Again, thank you for sharing JB. It has been nice exchanging with you.

          • JB

            My thanks to you for allowing me to post my nonsense on your page. I am a Southern and proud to be one – i am not a racist i believe all men are created equal and deserve a fair chance in life and especially in this troubled time of history That civil war was a very destructive one. I think more American lost lives in it than any war we have ever been in. I feel our existence fall on belief in the Almighty God and my Lord and Savior Jesue Christ. God bless you and your family

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