Oxford Takes a Step in Recognizing Its Troubled Past

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On Sept. 29, 1935, Elwood Higginbotham was pulled out of a county jail and murdered by a white mob as a jury deliberated his potential innocence verdict becoming the seventh and last known lynching victim in Oxford.

On Oct. 28, roughly 83 years later, Oxford took the first steps in recognizing its troubled past by erecting a plaque to honor one of the last victims of racially influenced mob “justice”. The plaque will be located at the “Three Way” intersection of Molly Barr Road and North Lamar Boulevard — the location where Higginbotham was killed.

The unveiling ceremony took place in a packed Second Baptist Church Saturday afternoon. Many of Elwood’s relatives were able to attend the event. Some traveling from the nearby Memphis area but a few coming from as far as Ohio or Texas.

“I am glad to know that they had the fortitude to want to try and bring closure on somethings that were still open down through the years,” Retired pastor of the late Higginbotham’s church Rev. William Woods said. “This is an opportunity to have people to look at both sides of the pictures, to know that it has happened and to know that the family can have total closure.”

The Equal Justice Initiative worked with the Winter Institute, the Higginbottom family and the Lafayette County community  to develop a plan for the plaque and donated the funds to assure its completion.

“[The plaque] says there are people in Oxford who are willing to engage in a conversation,” Kiara Boone, Deputy Director For the EJI said. “It says there are people in Oxford who are willing to engage in a dialogue and I think that is a great starting point. That is a great foundation and its something that gives Oxford something to build upon. ”

Boone was joined by her fellow EJI Representative Evan Milligan, both of whom used their time to discuss some of the steps that still need to be taken to truly build a more inclusive United States.

“Why are we so comfortable having a system where so many people are thrown away,” Milligan asked.  “Why are we so comfortable with a system with young people born into conditions of homelessness? We have a problem with that. In order to address that problem, we can’t only talk about laws and policies. We have to talk about our hearts and cultures and stories that we tell each other. The desire to have that conversation is why we began to work with this (Higginbotham) case.”

The line up for the event included a litany of speakers and performers beginning and ending with performances from the University of Mississippi Gospel Choir.

The other performers included local singer Effie Burt Rendition of Billie Holliday’s “Strange Fruit” and a performance from some of the late Higginbotham’s descendants.

Some of the other speakers included, Cynthia Parham, a current member of Higginbotham’s church, Louis Burroughs who recently learned of his relation to Elwood Higginbotham and Professor Diane Harriford of Vassar College in New York.

A common theme among the speakers was the idea of noting that this is just a stepping stone and that their was still work to do.

Louis Burrough has made it his life’s work learning about lynchings and other aspects of African American history and using his art to help people visualize them. During his time behind the podium he shared his experience of learning about his deceased relative and his disapproval of the original account and details of the story.

“I have no doubt that somebody wanted something Elwood Higginbotham had,” Burrough said before going on to list the inconsistencies in the original story.

Burroughs finished his time onstage asking for the confederate monument to be replaced with a statue to the brave blacks who were able to survive and thrive in Oxford.

“The visualization of our genes has to go along with the struggle,” Burrough said. “It can’t just be words and preaching and poetry. If you don’t see that information that looks like you, reminds you of you, then you are diminished.”

The EJI held an essay contest for local high school students that asked participants to compare a historical injustice to contemporary issues. The top four winners were recognized at the ceremony, and Jupiter O’Donnell—a junior from Oxford High School— read his aloud to the crowd.





What Week 10: Progressive Jewish leaders tell Trump he’s not welcome in Pittsburgh until he denounces white nationalism

Headline: Progressive Jewish leaders tell Trump he’s not welcome in Pittsburgh until he denounces white nationalism

This article largely centered around a letter sent from the Pittsburgh affiliate of Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice that criticizes Trump for the harm he has indirectly caused to minorities, people of color and certain religious groups through his dissemination of lies and conspiracy theory that often permeate the mainstream. It tells Trump he is not welcome in Pittsburgh until he denounces white nationalism which has caused a series of hate crimes since his taking office.

The article also detail some of the details of the shooting itself going into the response from the president and the backlash he received for tweeting about the World Series shortly after the shooting.

I think this article works because they use great sources to talk about a topic that is highly news worthy. It talks to members of the Jewish community and some of the people who wrote the letter to add insight to the thinking of the people who penned this letter.

It also has links to some of the presidents other response to tragedy such as the riots in Charlottesville to allow reader to quickly get up to speed.



What works week 9: Pete Davidson Speaks – And Jokes – About Split With Ariana Grande

Headline: Pete Davidson Speaks – And Jokes – About Split With Ariana Grande

This article talks about Pete Davidson first public appearance since his and Ariana Grande’s wedding was called off. Pete did a stand up comedy show to promote Americans to go vote and in his set he took time to talk about his recent love life struggles.

He talks about having to cover up his tattoos of Grande and how he had to come to the event despite his recent emotional problems.

The article does a good job of providing context for the story and background to how we got to where we are in the story. I like how they included tweets and pictures from the night to add to the scenery. I also like the fact that they used the exact words Davidson used and didn’t sensor as they know who their fan base is.

Ole Miss Meek Art School Houses Kathryn Hunter’s Exhibit “Concurrence”

Louisiana-based artist Kathryn Hunter, whose mixed media exhibit “Concurrence” will be on display in the University of Mississippi Meek School of Art through Oct. 28, showcases a wide variety of skills, ranging from graphic design to sewing and steel-cutting.

“Its a culmination of a lot of different aspects of art,” Assistant Professor of Graphic Design and Gallery Director Tyler Barnes said. “We have graphic design, there is laser cutout of metal, welding, fiber art, fabric and sewing is all combined in as well”

Hunter runs a print studio in Baton Rouge, Blackbird Letterpress, and her print background shows heavily in her work.

“She is able to take her basic printmaking processes and combine them with modern art and printmaking to break away from tradition while still holding on to the old techniques,” associate professor of sculptures Durant Thompson said.

Her art exhibit is spread throughout two rooms. Some pieces are in a small entrance room, which leads to another larger gallery room, which houses the rest of her art. One of the first things one notices upon entering the exhibit is the overpowering amount of white walls, giving the art the appearance of being printed on paper.

The entrance room welcomes the viewer to some of the common themes of the exhibit with the artworks “Eclipsed” and “Wadling”. Eclipsed introduces the viewer to the dog who is a guardian of spirit and keeper of guns. In the artwork the dog is surrounded by the different phrases of the moon alluding to our spirits connections with the moons and the universe in general. The way the light reflects of the art work puts a spotlight on a certain phase of the moon depending on the viewing angle giving the work the illusion of being a legend or guard of some sort.

the way adjacent to the “Eclipsed” houses the artwork “Wadling” which depicts what appears to be a polar bear surrounded by water droplets. This artwork introduces us to the bear which is a common theme through out Hunters work. The bear is a character, One of the largest fieriest predators but still vulnerable.

The exhibit is 19 works of art collectively with four in the first room and the rest in the back larger gallery.

The exhibit features a lot of installation art sometimes making the art pop such as “Tidal” which features a series of laser cut steel shaped like the different phases of the moon over wool fish. The way the light reflects of this exhibit also changes with the viewers angle allowing viewers to interact with the art. The art seeks to depict the intimate connection between fish and the moon. This again alludes to our connection as human to the rest of the universe.

“its not inside of a frame so each one of those individual phrases of the moon were nailed into the wall,” Barnes said. “Kind of merging 2-D art and 3-D art all at the same time. ”

According to her website, Kathryn Hunter is a fine artist based in South Louisiana where she runs blackbird letterpress, a printing studio which specializes in quirky animal stationery, handmade notebooks and cards, and invitations, with a focus on good craftsmanship and good design.

Hunter received her undergraduate degree in printmaking from Montana state University and her MFA in printmaking from Louisiana state University before going on to start her company.

Hunter’s Work has been commissioned by Clarkson Potter (a division of Penguin Random House), Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, Norton Simon Museum of Art, Los Angeles, and Historic New Orleans Collection.

The open house for the exhibit will be Thursday Oct. 25 in Meek Hall and will allow viewers to interact with Hunter and ask her question about her art and process.


What Works Week 8:Donald Trump: Democrats ‘Medicare for All’ plan will demolish promises to seniors

Headline: Donald Trump: Democrats ‘Medicare for All’ plan will demolish promises to seniors

In this Op-Ed written by President Donald Trump talks about the dangers of Medicare for all and why we should work to stop the democrats from the perspective of our commander and chief. The article talks about how democrats want to allow open borders and give health care for all which Trump speculates will ruin our medicare system and limit the ability of consumer to chose their own insurance.

The Op-ed is riddled with lies and misstatements and almost comes off as propaganda than anything. He almost makes a campaign ad with his speech which completely ignores facts. USA Today should have fact check this significantly before it was published an not gave the president a mouthpiece to spew absolute lies from. They later went back and edited it but the corrections should have taken place on the front end to avoid the lies and such being disseminated.

USA Today did have an obligation to release the story though as they strive to be a nonpartisan newspaper and must give a voice to all sides.

Deadly crash in New York leaves a community and the country searching for answers.

Saturday a deadly limousine crash in Schoharie, New York left 20 dead making it the deadliest transportation accident in the U.S. in 9 years. It was the deadliest transportation accident since February 2009, when Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed near Buffalo, New York, killing 50 people.

According to CBS News, a deadly limousine crash has happened every year in this country since 2000. These crashes account for at least 68 deaths.

Although most states require seat belts in the front seats, 22 states don’t have the same regulations for passengers in the back, and according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, you are eight times more likely to be killed in a crash if you are riding in the back seat of a car without a seat belt.

As most limousines don’t cross state lines, regulations for limousine are often regulated at the state level, and states like Mississippi regulate them similarly to buses, only stepping in when it seat 15 or more passengers.

“Mississippi is fairly laxed,” Scott said. “DOT regulates limousine just as they would buses”

Another thing that increases the chance of deadly accidents is the limit of regulation on vehicle which have been modified to accommodate more passengers.

“[Some companies] will take a factory vehicle and cut it apart at a 3rd party facility and put it back together as best they see fit,” Oxford Executive Travel President Jared Scott said. “A lot of the times  its not even close to manufactures specifications as far as safety goes. I had one manufactured about eight or nine years ago, and once I figured out how they were manufactured, I started to have my doubts about them. You see how they are manufactured, and you start to think ‘God, is this really in good taste?'”

Oxford Executive Travel hasn’t had an accident, a feat which President Jared Scott attributes to his companies safety practices.

“I prefer to operate factory style vehicles,” Scott Said. “I tend not to buy anything thats been modified. All my drivers are CDL drivers and have lots of experience driving buses or semi truck. I look for employees that have a solid track record of safe driving practices. I constantly monitor at MVRS. We use cameras in our cars. We drug test randomly and we also push up on a hour service limit and don’t allow drivers to work beyond 8 hours at a time because driver fatigue is a real thing.”


What Works Week 7: Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father

Headline: Trump Engaged in Suspect Tax Schemes as He Reaped Riches From His Father

This article from the New York Times details years of dubious and sometimes criminal practices to avoid paying tax by Donald Trump and his late father Fred Trump.

some of the practices highlighted in the article include loans given to his son with a payment plan or any real plan to pay them off at all. It also included making Donald and his siblings bankers and allowing themselves to repay debts with shell companies. The article uses interviews from past employees and business associates. It also uses tax returns and other documents from the times in question. The article does a great job providing links and/or proof to most instances.

For a regular president this would be a shocking revelations seeing a this is an atrocious act of not on tax fraud but just utter disrespect to one civil duty in paying taxes but for Donald Trump it was an article that doesn’t gain much attention after 24 hours. Donald Trump is constantly the butt of many jokes and crude articles and at some level it desensitizes us to this kind of behavior to the point where we aren’t even phrase by it anymore.

From the New York Times this is just another story in a long line of articles detailing the horrible and often shameful past of our president. The Times releases articles like this so often tho that they almost seem like hit pieces.

Aside from a few comments bashing the “Failing New York Times” and comments from his lawyers, he hasn’t made much of a denial of claim almost saying that the times is airing dirty laundry.

Its interesting to me to see how the relationship between the media and the president has changed. In the past such as the CBS story saying Bush didn’t do his full service in the  military resulted in Dan Rathers and a few others losing their job after a full commission  into how the story came about while Trump didn’t even question the article and just swept it under the rug without even the IRS questioning it.

William Faulkner Died 1962 but Left Behind a Legacy That Will Live Forever

In front of a small crowd of about 20, Saturday Sept. 29, Gloria Burgess visited the Burns-Belfry Muesuem where she hosted a book signing for her book, “Pass It On.” The Book takes place in Oxford and details the story of William Faulkner paying for her father, Earnest McEwen Jr, to go to college.

“My father always had two dreams, to go to college and to own a house with running water,” Gloria Burgess said . “A dream Mr. Faulkner help propel my dad towards when he offered to pay for my father’s college.”

In her remarks before the actual signing Ms. Burgess stressed the importance her father’s education played in helping him and his future generations to escape poverty.

“With education, my father was able to move his family out of Mississippi to Michgan,” Burgess said. ” Growing up, there was never a discussion about whether we were going to go to school or not but where we were going to school because our father knew college was on the road to success.”

Similar to the influence he had on the lives of the McEwans, Mr. Falkner’s life and fame had a lasting effect on his hometown. Here in Oxford, the community is all too familiar with Mr. Faulkner and his legacy which was often discounted in his early life.

“As a young man, Faulkner was viewed by the locals as a bit of a deadbeat,”Howry Professor of Faulkner Studies Jay Watson said. “He was the eldest son in a prominent north Mississippi family, yet instead of wanting to be a banker or lawyer or businessman, as convention would have dictated, he wanted to be an artist, to live a life of the mind. That made him a bit of an odd duck from the point of view of the community. When he was in his early twenties, attending classes at the University, they called him “Count No ‘Count.” ‘Count’ because he dressed nattily, like he fancied himself an aristocrat; and “No ‘Count” because everyone thought he would never amount to anything.”

It was only in the late 1940s and early 1950s that his local reputation began to change and Oxford began to embrace him. Through his work, he was able to make Oxford known nationally.

“Faulkner put Oxford on the map as a kind of small-town window onto the South, and that reputation survives today,” Watson said. “When national and international news outlets want to get a “bead” on the South, to explore its culture or politics, they often send reporters to Oxford to take the pulse of the town and the local scene here. Every year thousands of visitors come to Oxford to see Rowan Oak and explore the local environment that fired Faulkner’s imagination.”

Annually the Department of English and the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and coordinated by the Office of Outreach and Continuing Education host the Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha conference in his honor. The William Faulkner Society also uses Faulkner’s name. Through his work Faulkner became somewhat of a namesake for Oxford.

“William Faulkner is by far the most famous author to come out of Oxford, Mississippi,” Professor of English Dr. Jaime Harker said. “When I moved here from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania there were better writers coming to Oxford, Mississippi than were coming to Pittsburg because they would skip that but nobody wanted to skip coming to Oxford.”

After Mr and Mrs Faulkner passed their house was sold to the University of Mississippi which now uses it as a Museum. The building and furnishings have largely been kept the same as when Faulkner lived there including writing on the wall drawing tourist from around the world.

“The community benefits from this international interest, and the university benefits from it as well,” Watson said. “Scholars come to Oxford to research Faulkner’s life, writings, and world, and to share their scholarship at the annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha conference.  Undergraduate and graduate students in the English department come here to study Faulkner and write about him.  And at least since the 1980s, when Willie Morris and Barry Hannah joined the university faculty as writers in residence, poets and fiction writers have gravitated to Oxford and found it a hospitable environment for their work.  John Grisham called that “the Faulkner thing,” and it’s real.  It’s a big part of why there are so many successful writers living and working among us in this little town, and thus a big part of why the university was able to attract top faculty members for our creative writing programs.”


What Works Weeks 6: Kanye West Made SNL Stars ‘Uncomfortable’ with ‘Surprise’ Trump Rant: Source

Headline: Kanye West Made SNL Stars ‘Uncomfortable’ with ‘Surprise’ Trump Rant: Source

This article details the event of Saturday Night Live this weekend which ended with Kanye West offering an impromtu Pro-Trump rant. During his rant he offered conspiracy theories blaming Democrats for purposely taking dads out the home and pushing welfare.

It also talks about the response from the SNL crew who was surprised by Kanye’s rant. Kanye accused the crew of bullying him for wearing the hat which the crew denied. The crew acknowledged that he had been wearing the hat all week without anybody getting him any trouble and that he even asked them if he should wear the hat.

The article also notes that his rant wasn’t televised but because the show was already off the air not because they were silencing his voice.

This article works because they contacted a wide variety of source and even capture the story from many angles even getting the presidents response and twitter’s response. It also does a good job of linking to the actual rant and twitter post.