The University of Mississippi has redesigned a planned civil rights memorial.
The new design was unveiled earlier this week.
“Freedom” is the sole word on top of the archway of the memorial designed by architect James Eley. The memorial will no longer contain glass doors at both ends that Chancellor Robert Khayat said was a safety hazard and could be subject to vandalism. Among other changes, it will now contain spots for visitors to sit down.
Some Ole Miss supporters who backed an earlier version of the monument felt the process dragged on far too long — nearly a decade.
Susan Glisson, director of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, would not comment on the latest design, but remained unhappy with the process to build it.
“I’m not interested in supporting another top-down authoritative decision,” Glisson said.
Until it was changed last week, the design incorporated views of veterans of the civil rights movement, artists, students, faculty and others.
By “not respecting the ideas of the civil rights movement, it will violate the purpose of the memorial,” said Glisson, an original advocate of the monument as an Ole Miss student.
Rejecting nearly a decade of planning, the new design “took a week,” she noted.
Construction of the monument on a grassy area on the Oxford campus between the Williams Library and the landmark Lyceum Building will begin in January. The work should be completed by early May. Ole Miss officials say $160,000 from grants and private donations will be used to build it.
The memorial makes a statement about Ole Miss’ role in the integration of higher education in the South, Khayat said last week. James Meredith was the first Black student admitted to Ole Miss amid riots in 1962.
“Five years from now, this controversy will be forgotten,” said Jeff Alford, associate vice chancellor for university relations. “It (the new design) is significantly different. … People will be pleased.”
While he’s not seen the latest version, James Payne, a professor of African-American Studies at Ole Miss, said he’s encouraged there’s a definite plan for its construction and completion.
“I’d assume they are committed to completing it and will have it done by (spring) graduation,” he said.
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