“When you think of the University of Mississippi, the first thing you think of is the past.” – Former Ole Miss Running Back Deuce McAllister (ESPN.com).
Music and race in this country go hand and hand. Blues, jazz, rock and roll…
On Tuesday, they collided in a fatal crash on Route 6 in Oxford.
From Dixie With Love [download/listen to the audio file here] is a song played by the Ole Miss band before and after football games. It’s been that way since the 1970’s. The song is a blend of Dixie, All My Trials and the Battle Hymn of the Republic written by an assistant band director in the mid-1970s, supposedly as a way to get away from just Dixie, which had become offensive to many people in the post Civil Rights era.
Fast-forward to October and November 2009…
Ole Miss chancellor Dan Jones announces that From Dixie With Love would no longer be played at games if fans continue to include the traditional chant “The South Will Rise Again” – chanted during the transition between the slow opening and the fast closing.
The Ole Miss student government passes a resolution suggesting the chant be replaced by the phrase, “To hell with LSU.”
The band shortens the song to discourage fans from the traditional chant during part of the tune. But, some continue to recite the chant at the end of the song, despite the change made at the chancellor’s request.
So the line in the sand was drawn. Dr. Jones announced the fate of the song would be decided by fan reaction during the Old Miss-Northern Arizona game this past Saturday.
The chant continued.
Tuesday, Dr. Jones wrote a one-page letter to the Ole Miss community [view it here] banning the song to be played at all. At least for now. He wrote, “If the chant stops and our elected student leaders ask for the song to return, I will consider their request. But for now, those who continue the chant leave me no choice but to ask the band to stop playing (the song).”
End of story?
Read the comments to a post from yesterday over at the Ole Miss blog Red Cup Rebellion. It’ll take all of your lunchtime, but if you want all 100 sides of the issue, read it.
If you want a lengthy but extremely worthy read on this issue from the Ole Miss perspective, read what Godfrey has to say in a Nov 4th post over at The Godfrey Show. Godfrey reminds us that the playing of From Dixie With Love is a game-day tradition, but the chanting of TSWRA is not. Godfrey writes that the chant “is not, nor ever has been, a tradition at Ole Miss during football games. I’ve been attending and reporting on almost every home game for the Rebels in the last decade. It’s been going on no more than four years. Don’t argue with me.”
In the near term, it should be obvious to the most casual observer that Saturday’s game will be attended by a very partisian home crowd with a lot on their mind. Many of the players also will have a lot of pride to play for – Saturday is the return of Ed Orgeron to Oxford, former Ole Miss head coach (“Coach O”) now roaming the sidelines for the Vols as one of Lane Kiffin’s key staffers. Ed recruited many of Ole Miss’ key players during his stint in Oxford.
As Rebel star TB Dexter McCluster said, “Different guys think different things about him. But everyone’s excited about it. Everyone wants to go out there and win. Him being our former coach – we have a connection with him from the past few years. It’s emotional. Everyone wants to go out there and show him what we’ve become.”
I look forward to Saturday for a lot of reasons.
I’d like to look back, also.
Robert “Ben” Williams was the first black football player for Ole Miss (defensive lineman, 1972-75), the first black from Ole Miss to earn All-SEC honors, and the first African-American chosen by the student body as Colonel Reb, the University’s highest elective honor. He was also the first African-American from Ole Miss to be inducted into the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. He is a recipient of the University’s Award of Distinction. He helped establish the Robert “Ben” Williams Minority Scholarship at the school by endowing the scholarship.
After earning a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in 1976, he played 10 years in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills. During this time, Williams earned All-Pro honors and was named to the Bills’ Silver Anniversary All-Time Team.
What does Ben think about From Dixie With Love with the chant TSWRA?
I’d like to know.
James Meredith in 1962 became the first black student enrolled at Ole Miss. His first day wasn’t the typical orientation day we all have experienced. The state’s governor, Ross Barnett, vociferously opposed his enrollment, and the violence and rioting surrounding the incident, leaving two people dead, caused President Kennedy to send federal troops. Under adverse circumstances, recounted in his book Three Years in Mississippi, Meredith graduated from the University of Mississippi in 1963 with a degree in political science (he had entered the university as a transfer student from Jackson State).
Meredith continued to work as a civil rights activist, most notably by leading the March Against Fear in 1966, a protest against voter registration intimidation. During the march, which began in Memphis and ended in Jackson, Meredith was shot and wounded by a roadside rifleman.
He enrolled in Columbia University, where he received a law degree in 1968. He ceased his civil rights work and became a stock broker. He made several attempts to be elected to Congress as a Republican, became increasingly conservative in his political and social views, and served for several years as a domestic advisor to U.S. Senator Jesse Helms. He opposed the holiday honoring Martin Luther King, and staunchly opposed affirmative action.
What does James think about From Dixie With Love with the chant TSWRA?
I’d like to know.
What do you think?