Victor Craig, American Renaissance, July-August, 1997
The Band Played Dixie: Race and Liberal Conscience at Ole Miss. Nadine Cohodas, The Free Press, 309 pp.
The rapid abandonment of Southern resistance to integration is much remarked upon, but little understood by white Americans who fear for their race’s future. In the fall of 1962 the University of Mississippi, long viewed as a bastion of racial awareness, was the site of a famous struggle between the federal and state governments over the admission of a black, James Meredith. It was one of the pivotal battles in the fight to preserve segregation.
The eventual admission of Mr. Meredith is a well known victory of the civil rights movement, which has today become part of the sacred multi-racial history of America. Less well known is the background of Ole Miss, as the school is affectionately known, and why it achieved such symbolic significance. The University’s past helps illustrate the nature of the South’s racial, cultural, religious and historical passion in the days before liberalism brought it to its knees.
What happened after September, 1962 is a grim chronology of constant defeat that European Americans would do well to understand if they hope ever to reassert themselves in the land of their ancestors.
The Band Played Dixie, by Nadine Cohodas, recounts the story of pre-integration Ole Miss, the details of the Meredith affair and the school’s subsequent history. Its perspective is decidedly on the side of racial mixing, and the author accepts the dogmas of egalitarianism. Nonetheless, she has done her homework and the facts are by and large left to stand on their own.
A Southern Bastion
The University of Mississippi opened its doors in the small town of Oxford on November 6, 1848. It was founded to support the process by which a culture transmits itself across generations. At first it succeeded admirably. A little over a decade after its founding, a few weeks before secession, a student group called the University Greys began military training. A month after the war began the school was forced to close, since all but five students had volunteered for Mr. Davis’ army.
By 1865, 111 out the 135 University Greys were dead. The monument erected to their memory on campus reads: In honor of those who with ardent valor and patriotic devotion sacrificed their lives in defense of principles inherited from their fathers and strengthened by the teachings of the Alma Mater.
A commencement address by Reverend T.D. Witherspoon in 1867 showed insights his descendants would do well to keep in mind: We must have an educational literature of our own, or we have no security for the future against a thralldom far worse than that of the bayonet.
In 1882 the school admitted women. The case for their admission was light years removed from contemporary dogma: We are not teaching women to demand the rights of men nor to invade the place of men. The goal was merely to improve the sensibilities of her aesthetic faculties, of the moral and religious parts of her being, which fit her for the ways of modest usefulness . . . and which invest her with that true womanly character that constitute the charm of social life and the queen of the house.
In the 1920s, the ideals of Ole Miss were still intact. The chancellor, Albert Hume, once wrote that a hypothetical professor who would suggest that Robert E. Lee was a traitor would find his position instantly vacant. He would be told, if claiming academic freedom, You are free, but so are we, and you may not trample underfoot what we regard as sacred so long as you hold a position in our institution.
In 1936 the school adopted Rebels as the nickname for its athletic teams. In 1948, at the height of the enthusiasm surrounding the Dixiecrat’s departure from the Democratic Party in protest of Truman’s support for early civil rights legislation, Ole Miss began the practice of having the cheerleaders run onto the field at football games waving Confederate flags while the band played Dixie. Cheerleaders then tossed bundles of flags to the crowd, which would wave them throughout the game. The school’s mascot became Colonel Rebel, dressed as a Southern plantation owner.
Confident that their way of life would preserve their racial and cultural identity, the students at Ole Miss were little disturbed by the 1954 Brown decision. In 1956 a student poll showed that only 19 per cent (the vast majority of whom were northerners) supported integration. Relying on the firm rhetoric of its political leaders, the South thought it could resist the second reconstruction. It was in for a surprise.
Tolerance and Gradualism
The Band Played Dixie gives ample evidence of the two errors that have led to the dismantling of traditional social structures throughout Western nations in this century. The first is a mistaken idea of the type of dissent the social fabric can tolerate. In societies as diverse as post-Franco Spain, post-Verwoerd South Africa, and the post-World War II South, authority neglected its primary task which is the placing of life’s fundamental assumptions beyond the boundaries of debate. Once these assumptions become subject to critical debate they are endangered. Leftists have always understood this, whether it be Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, or the ruthless controllers of contemporary public discourse. The right has rarely grasped it.
The second error is the belief that revolutionary movements can be satisfied by granting minor concessions. It didn’t work for Louis XVI or Nicholas II and it utterly doomed South Africa and the American south.
Miss Cohodas notes a report presented to the university’s trustees in the fall of 1958 by two university alumni, state representative Wilburn Hooker and former representative Edwin White, which detailed substantial cracks in the school’s commitment to what they saw as its basic principles. They noted that books supporting integration were displayed prominently for browsing on the library’s shelves while those favoring segregation were kept in the stacks. They cited many professors who were less than sympathetic to the Ole Miss world view. These were not frivolous points. One need only think of how much today’s top universities, for example, safeguard their students from exposure to racialist arguments. However, Miss Cohodas tells us, White and Hooker appeared to have been rebuffed in their crusade to rid Ole Miss of the alleged heretics.
The sorry tale of Governor Ross Barnett’s secret negotiations with the Kennedys in the fall of 62 has been detailed elsewhere, but Miss Cohodas also touches on it. In public, Barnett was telling his people that, No school will be integrated in Mississippi while I am your governor, and We must stand up like men and tell them never! We will not drink from the cup of genocide. In private, he was begging Bobby Kennedy to allow him to make a theatrical public stand in opposition while allowing Meredith to enter the school.
A popular song of the time illustrates the people’s faith in their leader:
Never, Never, Never, No-o-o Never, Never, Never
We will not yield one inch of any field,
Fix us another toddy, ain’t yieldin to nobody,
Ross’s standing like Gibraltar, he shall never falter
Ask us what to say, it’s to hell with Bobby K
Never shall our emblem go from Colonel Reb to Old
Miss Cohodas presents a rather one-sided picture of the violence that swept the campus after Meredith’s admission, suggesting that it was demonstrators rather than the federal forces who struck first. Her bibliography lacks Earl Lively’s 1963 book, The Invasion of Mississippi, which presents a perspective on those events unadulterated by the Washington regime’s propaganda line. Whatever the details, though, the surrender had been accomplished; Ole Miss was integrated.
The Slippery Slope
The token presence of one black on campus was just the beginning. As the final chapters of The Band Played Dixie amply demonstrate, the South could have continued its resistance in many forms, but it chose instead to bow down; not overnight, but slowly, inch by inch. Miss Cohodas details it all. By November first of 1962, Chancellor Williams was warning the student body to accept Mr. Meredith’s presence peacefully or be expelled. Despite opposition from a group called the Rebel Underground, which labeled Williams a liar and a Quisling, students and faculty obeyed.
The next year Ole Miss played against an integrated football team for the first time. (In South Africa this was one of the first capitulations of the post-Verwoerd government, which agreed to a match with an integrated rugby team from New Zealand. Less than thirty years later the same National Party surrendered the entire country without firing a shot.)
In 1966, a liberal student group had Bobby Kennedy speak on campus (!), and the event proceeded peacefully. Kennedy’s words had an unintended ring of truth to them: You have no problem the nation does not have. You carry no burden that they too do not carry.
By 1969, there was a Negro history celebration and a Negro History Week. A sit-in on the steps of the chancellor’s office led to the inevitable creation of a Black Student Union. The following fall, with over two hundred black students attending Ole Miss, the basketball team was integrated.
According to Miss Cohodas the reason was the realization that Ole Miss was not going to be competitive unless it tried to get the best players around regardless of their skin color. (This was an old argument. In 1947, Pee Wee Reese refused to sign a petition launched by Dixie Walker to protest Jackie Robinson’s presence on the team because he didn t care what color he was so long as he could help the Dodgers win. Why are there no tributes to the idealism of Dixie Walker?)
At Mississippi Southern the school’s mascot, General Nat, referring to Nathan Bedford Forrest, had been shelved in 1970 to placate black football players. In 1972 Ben Williams became the first black to suit up for the Rebels, and black studies courses began at about the same time. By June, 1976, Williams was voted to the honorary campus leadership position of Colonel Rebel!
Blacks had slowly found their way into the driver’s seat. An attempt to provide Colonel Reb with a horse to be named Traveler in honor of General Lee’s mount was nixed because of black protests. In 1980, over two dozen Rebel football players were black, and in April, 1982, the first black was elected to the cheerleading squad. He promptly announced that he would not wave the Battle Flag at games.
In the 1980s the university began various affirmative action programs to lower admissions standards for blacks, and it actively sought black professors. James Meredith, invited back to speak at a commemoration event celebrating his admission, said that the Confederate flag, Colonel Rebel, and Dixie must be removed as school symbols and songs.
In 1990 Miss Ole Miss was black. By the mid-nineties the Confederate flag was furled. No longer would the cheerleaders rush out onto the field waving the flag of their forefathers.
Lately, we read that Ole Miss has just hired a public relations firm to study the university’s image, which is apparently still unacceptable. Although polls taken in Mississippi show that the school’s supporters want no more dismantling of tradition, Chancellor Robert Khayat wants new supporters. His goal is to make Ole Miss 35 percent black.
And so it was over. In a little over three decades the University had been transformed from a bulwark of Southern tradition to an instrument of the multi-racial revolution.
As the battle for Ole Miss raged in 1962 a wise man remarked to me that if the university did integrate we could expect three things. 1) Southerners would be called upon to reject the heritage of their ancestors. 2) Integration would lead to crime, taxation and a breakdown of the social order. 3) Miscegenation would lead to the end of the white race. The first has come to pass. The second is all around us, except that whites survive by hiding in the suburbs and paying protection money in exorbitant taxes. Why has miscegenation not led to the end of the white race? Perhaps because non-whites have too much racial pride to mingle with whites.
Will whites ever regain the racial consciousness needed to reclaim power in their own land? If it is to be our fate to follow South Africa into the abyss, we will have many to thank. Among them will be the Washington liberals who enforced integration while insulating themselves from its effects. Also responsible are the Southerners of the 50s and 60s, who so craved comfort and respectability. They first deceived themselves into thinking that fiery words were the same as firm resistance, and then completely jettisoned their racial and cultural identities. Can a race, the blood of whose proudest peoples such as the Southerners and the Afrikaners has clearly grown anemic, long survive? The answer will be ours to give.