The University of Mississippi is taking major strides in acknowledging its racist history. The institution, affectionately known as Ole Miss, announced plans on Thursday to recognize pre-Civil War campus buildings that were built by slaves.
According to NBC, in addition to placing plaques on buildings built by slaves, the university will also remove the name of white supremacist James K. Vardaman from a campus building. Vardaman was the governor of Mississippi from 1904 to 1908. “As an educational institution, it is imperative we foster a learning environment and fulfill our mission by pursuing knowledge and understanding,” Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said in a news release.
Ole Miss famously became embroiled in racial tension and violence in 1962, when James Meredith became the first black student to attend the institution as the result of court-ordered integration. The move is part of an ongoing process on the campus to reconcile with its past, provide historical context, and create a more welcoming environment for a diverse student body.
Leo Branton Jr., a civil rights and entertainment lawyer whose stirring defense of ’60s radical Angela Davis brought him his most celebrated victory in a six-decade career often spent championing unpopular cases, died of natural causes Friday in Los Angeles. He was 91. His death was confirmed by his son Tony Nicholas.
Branton, the only African-American graduate of Northwestern University’s law school in 1948, helped singer Nat King Cole integrate an exclusive Los Angeles neighborhood, defended Communists in McCarthy-era Los Angeles and won misconduct cases against the Los Angeles Police Department decades before Rodney King became a household name.
“He was a hero of mine,” said Connie Rice, a prominent Los Angeles civil rights attorney who helped lead efforts to reform the LAPD after the King beating. “All the things I’ve done, Leo Branton did 50 years before I even thought about going to law school. He saw himself not as a private practitioner out to make money for himself but as a lawyer with the skills to be a champion for black liberation.”