Oxford civil rights tour shows public the history of integration in education

Sep. 13—OXFORD — Two dozen attendees explored the history of the integration of K-12 education and the University of Mississippi in Oxford on Monday morning during the first of several planned civil rights tours.

The two-hour tour — titled "Civil Rights in Oxford Town: The Integration of Education" — is part of a slate of events at the university to celebrate the 60th anniversary of integration.

Each tour will be hosted by Rhondalyn Peairs, founder and CEO of Historich, an experiential learning and educational services business. She's an Oxford native and a graduate student in UM Southern Studies program.

The goal of these tours, and others offered via Historich, is to teach people via experiences and site visits. This particular tour offers attendees a glimpse into a side of the town's rich history that isn't often highlighted.

The goal is not to rewrite history, but to paint a fuller picture.

"I want the old story to be an inclusive story and one that really tells everybody's views," Peairs said. "Everybody made this history, it's not just one person's history.

"People come to Oxford for more than just Faulkner and football," she added. "They want to know other things."

The tour began in front of the Lyceum where Peairs discussed the history of integration in education across the United States, and specifically in Mississippi.

She detailed several important civil rights cases across the country, including Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), Brown v. Board of Education (1954), along with Mississippi cases like Meredith v. Fair (1962), Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education (1969) and Ayers & United States v. Fordice (1992).

Attendees then walked through the Lyceum to the James Meredith monument and stopped to read a UM Freedom Trail marker about the events of Meredith's admission to the university before hopping on a bus for a ride around Oxford.

They passed by a campus memorial marker for Paul Guihard, a French journalist who died during a riot the night of Sept. 30, 1962 — the only journalist known to have died while reporting during the civil rights era from 1954 to 1971. Other sights along the way included Baxter Hall, the Boles-Wiley Shoe Shop and the Federal Building.

The final stop before returning to the university was the Burns-Belfry Museum & Multicultural Center, a former church building turned museum where attendees browsed exhibits and asked Peairs questions during an impromptu question and answer session.

Five additional tours scheduled through mid-October have already reached full capacity, but anyone interested in receiving information about added tours can add their names to a waitlist.

For more information about the "Civil Rights in Oxford Town" tours and other events surrounding the 60th anniversary of integration at Ole Miss, visit 60years.olemiss.edu.