(Image by Tannen Maury/AP)
Countless colleges and businesses wear their nicknames and mottos proudly. Now, with protests and arguments emerging over the death of George Floyd, many are saying goodbye to signature imagery. The question is will the University of Mississippi be one of them?
The University of Mississippi is very well known for its century old title: “Ole Miss.” The name, as innocent as it seems, is said to have quite an uncomfortable background. At first glance, the name appears to be a slightly miss-typed shorthand of the phrase “Old Mississippi;” however the original source of this nickname is far from the phrase.
Back in 1896, the university’s council, represented by a fraternity, was looking for a new name to give that year’s school year-book. After asking around, student Elma Meek came up with the recognizable name “Ole Miss.” Meek came across this name while looking through the unique language of the antebellum “darkey.” Here, “Ole Miss” was used as a respective phrase given to a slave master’s wife. Around 1936, 40 years later, Meek reported to the school’s newspaper that she “has often heard [that] old ‘darkies’ on the Southern plantations [reffered to] the lady in the ‘big house’ as ‘Ole Miss,’” however, she had “never thought much about the matter.”
Soon, the University of Mississippi published their story on how the expression has become a “valued possession” under the headline: “Ole Miss takes its name from darkey dialect, not abbreviation of state.” Although the name may not have come from the brightest of places, numerous students-- including those of color, feel like “Ole Miss” has “evolved” in order to wrap up all the amazing things associated with their college.
Looking back, Meek believes that keeping the title “Ole Miss” may be a tribute to Southern Women. This topic, though not new, has been a bubbling debate ever since the beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement. Yet it doesn't seem like the strong-spirited university is ready to give up their oddly earned nickname. The public was unable to pressure the University of Mississippi into giving up the name over a century ago, and it doesn't seem like the school’s community is backing down now.
Are you aware of the “Ole Miss” history? Should the school be able to keep its nickname while other establishments are switching up theirs?