The placement of a noose on the neck of a statue honoring the first African-American man to enroll at the University of Mississippi on the school's campus has drawn the attention of the FBI.
The Associated Press reports that campus police discovered rope and a flag bearing the Confederate symbol on the statue of James Meredith on Sunday morning. Furthermore, the Associated Press adds that two men were spotted near the statue on Sunday, prompting authorities to review surveillance footage.
Mississippi NAACP president Derrick Johnson expressed outrage during a press conference at the state Capitol today. "It's a racial hate crime," Johnson asserted. "At what level do they get prosecuted? I don't know. But as long as we tolerate hate, we will continue to revisit history and the past of this state, and at some point we must move forward."
Chancellor Dan Jones denounced the display in a statement, saying that it does not reflect university beliefs or attitudes:
These individuals chose our university's most visible symbol of unity and educational accessibility to express their disagreement with our values. Their ideas have no place here, and our response will be an even greater commitment to promoting the values that are engraved on the statue—Courage, Knowledge, Opportunity, and Perseverance.
According to Johnson, this reflects a larger problem looming at the university. "You cannot have a university where, when you turn down the main drag, it's called Confederate Drive. ... At some point, we're going to have to reverse course on the image of Ole Miss so we can reverse course on the image of the state of Mississippi," he said.
In the fall of 1962, Meredith became the first black student to enroll at Ole Miss following a great deal of opposition and violence, officially desegregating the school. Despite facing harassment during his undergraduate days, Meredith earned a degree in political science.
The monument was built in 2006, and though Meredith called it "hideous" and refused to participate in a 50th anniversary celebration honoring his enrollment in 2012, these abhorrent actions show that over 50 years after Meredith supposedly changed the university, there's still much work to be done.
The school's alumni association is offering a $25,000 reward in return for information leading to an arrest in connection to the incident.
[via Associated Press]