The board of trustees of Mississippi’s Institutions of Higher Learning voted Thursday to remove a Confederate statue displayed near the University of Mississippi’s main administrative building.
The state’s 12-member college board approved the proposal after nearly a year of deliberation between the university’s student body and administration, although no timeline has been given for the relocation process, the Associated Press reported. The relocation is estimated to cost $1.2 million, but will be paid solely with private donations, the board said.
The 30-foot tall monument, which depicts a saluting Confederate soldier, was erected in 1906 with support from the United Daughters of the Confederacy. A report from the university published in 2016 stated that the statue was built to promote the Lost Cause ideology, which downplayed the role of slavery as a reason for the southern states’ secession.
Ole Miss students and faculty protest racist Confederate statue
“Currently, we have a statue on our campus that glorifies Confederates who fought for slavery.”
— Move Silent Sam (@Move_Silent_Sam) November 29, 2018
The University of Mississippi student government voted unanimously to remove the statue in March 2019, although the college board initially held off on final approval, NBC news reported. A number of donors and the university’s athletics director also backed the relocation effort, according to Mississippi today.
The statue has been a source of contention for decades. It was a rallying point in 1962 for people who rioted in opposition to court-ordered integration efforts, and pro-Confederate groups gathered at the monument in February 2019 to protest university athletes kneeling during the national anthem.
A former student was arrested May 30 after he spray painted the monument and left red hand prints on it.
This unidentified person was just arrested by police on the #OleMiss campus after apparently spraying the Confederate statue with the words “Spiritual Genocide.” (Photo by @MississippiCIR‘s Samuel Boudreau) pic.twitter.com/LoCuBoEXzY
— Jerry Mitchell (@JMitchellNews) May 30, 2020
The University of Mississippi has attempted to distance itself from pro-Confederate symbolism, according to the Associated Press. The university retired its Colonel Reb mascot in 2003 after concerns that the mascot resembled a plantation owner, and has taken steps to provide historical context about monuments on campus.
The growing public outrage towards police violence against black people has also led to Confederate monuments and symbols being removed around the country. (RELATED: Mississippi Working On Legislation To Remove Confederate Emblem From State Flag)
The university will move the statue from its central spot near the main building to a Civil War cemetery in a secluded part of campus.