USA Today: For Ole Miss, debate marks school’s progress

USA Today (9/28/08)

For Ole Miss, debate marks school’s progress

Two generations ago, bullets flew and tear gas canisters exploded among the magnolias as segregationists fought federal authorities over the court-ordered admission of the first black student to the University of Mississippi.

It was the flagship school in what was then the most defiantly white supremacist state in the union. Now, Ole Miss is a diverse university where racial conflict is a topic for history classes rather than a fact of everyday life, and it’s hosting the first presidential debate featuring a black nominee for a major party.

“I think what we have here is really a confluence of two lines of history, where you have a new Ole Miss, a post-racial Ole Miss, and you have a post-racial black candidate running for president,” said David Sansing, professor emeritus of history at the university. “Nowhere in America could these two forces reinforce each other as they do here at Ole Miss.”

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