Project 21 Condemns Vandalism of Ole Miss Statue of James Meredith
Son of Conservative Civil Rights Icon, a Member of Project 21, Issues Statement
FBI, Local Police Investigating Apparent Hate Crime
Washington, D.C. - Members of the Project 21 black leadership network condemn the apparent February 16 hate crime on the campus of the University of Mississippi in which a statue of civil rights icon and prominent black conservative James Meredith was vandalized. Meredith's son, John, a founding member of Project 21, has issued a statement about the act and his appreciation for efforts to find the perpetrators.
"We join in the condemnation of those who have vandalized the iconic statue of James Meredith and commend the University of Mississippi for the quick action it has taken in response," said Project 21 Co-Chairman Horace Cooper.
In the early morning hours of Sunday, February 16, a construction contractor working on the Ole Miss campus reported that he heard two men yelling out racial slurs. Afterward, the contractor said he found that the life-like bronze statue of James Meredith, the first black student at the school, had a rope noose around its neck and a pre-2003 Georgia state flag covering its face. That flag contains a version of the Confederate battle flag.
The statue of James Meredith was unveiled on campus in 2006 and has never before been vandalized. The Ole Miss Alumni Association is offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of any perpetrators. The FBI is working with campus law enforcement as the act is being investigated as a possible hate crime.
James Meredith's integration of Ole Miss in 1962, which began with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling authorizing his enrollment at the previously all-white school and ended with presidential intervention to quell deadly rioting, was a major turning point in the civil rights era.
In 1966, James Meredith organized the "March Against Fear" voter registration march from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi. He was shot by a sniper during the march, but still finished the trek. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. also participated in the march. Meredith later ran for elected office in New York and Mississippi as a Republican. He became a popular public speaker on conservative issues, and served as a domestic policy advisor to then-Senator Jesse Helms (R-NC) between 1989 and 1991.
Now 80 years old and an advocate of early childhood education of basic societal tenets such as the Golden Rule, Ten Commandments and Lord's Prayer, James Meredith said to the Los Angeles Times about the vandalism: "That just clearly shows that we're not training our children like the Bible says. They don't know right and wrong, good and bad and how to apply it to life."
His son John Meredith, a founding member of the National Center's Project 21 black leadership network, said about the vandalism and the immediate response: "While this type of abhorrent vandalism is deplorable, I think the University of Mississippi is to be commended for its handling of the incident. The speed and determination it has moved with in pursuing justice for this act, coupled with the generous reward offered toward the apprehension of the perpetrators by the alumni association, shows the institution no longer tolerates hateful behavior on its campus or in its name."
"James Meredith is an iconic civil rights leader. He is a living legend. He clearly and succinctly expressed the need for our society as a whole to address conservative values. While some may say that traditional values found in God's word through the Bible are outdated or unnecessary, Meredith correctly points out -- from his own experience -- how ignoring those values leads to the hate that our society as a whole detests. He shows the need to promote, and not reject, these conservative values," said Project 21's Hughey Newsome. "As a story of retribution, it is also promising to see that the University of Mississippi has come full circle. The institution that once rejected Meredith based on his race is now working to protect his well-deserved honor."
Project 21, a leading voice of black conservatives for over two decades, is sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research (http://www.nationalcenter.org).