TIME Civil Rights

Ole Miss Student Who Hung Noose on Statue Indicted on Civil Rights Charges

University of Mississippi Campus
Wesley Hitt—Getty Images James H. Meredith statue on the campus of the University of Mississippi on April 12, 2008 in Oxford, Miss.

The statue was of James Meredith, the first black student to attend Ole Miss

The man who tied a noose around the neck of a statue of James Meredith at Ole Miss last year will face federal civil rights charges, the Justice Department announced Friday, as the prank was intended to “intimidate” black students and faculty at the school.

Graeme Phillip Harris will face federal charges for hanging a noose and an outdated Georgia flag around the statue of James Meredith, who in 1962 became the first black student to attend Ole Miss. According to the Justice Department, Harris “conspired with others under the cover of darkness” to execute the prank, which the indictment said was intended to “threaten and intimidate” black students at the University.

“This shameful and ignorant act is an insult to all Americans and a violation of our most strongly-held values,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement. “No one should ever be made to feel threatened or intimidated because of what they look like or who they are. By taking appropriate action to hold wrongdoers accountable, the Department of Justice is sending a clear message that flagrant infringements of our historic civil rights will not go unnoticed or unpunished.”

Harris and his co-conspirators were members of Sigma Phi Epsilon, and their actions (along with other hazing incidents) prompted the national organization to suspend the Ole Miss Chapter, according to an email to members from Grand President Philip Cox.

 

TIME Religion

George Takei Asks Twitter Followers to #BoycottIndiana Over Religious Objections Law

Critics say the Religious Freedom Restoration Act legalizes discrimination

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill into law Thursday that allows business owners to deny same-sex couples service on religious grounds, then quickly defended it. Within hours, Star Trek actor and LGBT activist George Takei took his outrage to Twitter using the hashtag #BoycottIndiana, which began trending.

Democratic lawmakers, LGBT rights activists and civil liberties groups have argued that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act legalizes discrimination. And other celebrities aside from Takei have questioned Pence’s decision to sign the bill. On Monday, Jason Collins—the first openly gay NBA player—tweeted at the Governor, asking him if he will be discriminated against when he attends the Final Four of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in Indianapolis next week.

On Thursday, the Indianapolis-based NCAA, expressed its own doubts. “We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement.

Several other businesses plan to protest the law by denying Indiana their business. The gamer convention Gen Con threatened in a letter to pull its event out of Indianapolis when its contract with the city ends, and Mark Benioff, CEO of the $43 billion tech company Salesforce, said company will no longer proceed with its plans to expand to the state.

Read next: Indiana Governor Defends Signing of Religious Objections Bill

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Civil Rights

How a Little-Known Government Agency Kept the Peace in Selma

Former Governor LeRoy Collins mediating during civil rights march - Selma, Alabama
State Archives of Florida Former Governor LeRoy Collins, walking between Andrew Young and Martin Luther King Jr., mediating during civil rights march, Alabama, 1965.

On the 50th anniversary of the Selma marchers’ arrival in Montgomery, a look back at the role of LeRoy Collins and the Community Relations Service

A photograph has the power to change minds and open them, reveal truths and distort them. It also has the power to lose elections, as this photograph of LeRoy Collins marching from Selma, Ala., to Montgomery with civil rights leaders demonstrated when Collins ran for U.S. Senate in 1968.

The real story, though, is not only in the consequences the photo engendered after it was taken, but also in the events that led Collins to the front of the march on that early spring day, sandwiched between Andrew Young and Martin Luther King Jr.

Two weeks before the photograph was made, the brutal events of “Bloody Sunday” had horrified almost anyone with access to a television or newspaper: King and many others had attempted a protest march from Selma to Montgomery, but they had been turned back with violence at the Edmund Pettus Bridge. President Johnson hoped to stave off the violence and media attention a second attempt at reaching the state capital would surely yield. But, despite a pending restraining order placed on the march by a federal judge, King planned to move forward. He was going to try again just a few days later, on March 9, 1965.

So Johnson dispatched Collins, a former Florida governor who had been appointed to direct the newly formed Community Relations Service (CRS), to keep an already escalating situation from erupting uncontrollably. CRS, which had been established under the 1964 Civil Rights Act as the peacemaking arm of the Department of Justice, was charged with mediating community conflicts rooted in race, religion and other human differences. The tensions in Selma fit squarely in the agency’s wheelhouse.

Collins, who had never met King before that day, attempted to broker a deal in which King would stop the march on the bridge and then turn around, in exchange for which Alabama State Trooper Colonel Al Lingo would agree not to use force. Both King and Lingo offered tepid agreement, and when the pivotal moment arrived, both men kept their word. King led a brief prayer and song and instructed surprised marchers to about-face, a move that caused the day to later be nicknamed “Turnaround Tuesday.”

The halt surprised the press as much as it did the marchers. According an account of the day’s events by Collins’ biographer, Martin Dyckman, the CRS’ arrival in Selma had gone unannounced, as the agency’s establishing law required it to operate without publicity.

Collins remained in Alabama to negotiate with city and state officials in Montgomery, as the date neared for a third attempt to complete the walk from Selma. That walk, which began March 21, was ultimately successful: King and his followers reached the state capital on March 25, 1965, a half-century ago today.

It was during the second day of marching that Collins reached the head of the line to discuss plans for the coming days with King, Young and other leaders. The photograph that captured their brief conference would appear on the front pages of newspapers across Florida the following day.

When Collins was nominated by the Democratic Party to fill a vacant U.S. Senate seat in 1968, the photograph reemerged, not as a demonstration of the CRS’ success in mediating the marches, but as a campaign tactic by Collins’ Republican opponent. Many Florida voters, not realizing his role as a mediator, perceived the photo as an image of Collins helping to lead the march. In a southern state that was far from progressive on civil-rights issues, this perception sounded the death knell for Collins’ chances in the election—and his career in politics.

But for Collins, the career he traded for peace in Selma—or at least as much peace as one agency could hope to achieve—was a worthy barter. His daughter Jane Aurell recently told the Miami Herald that Collins never regretted the work he did in Selma: “He would never have undone what he did.”

Read TIME’s 1955 cover story on LeRoy Collins’ Florida governorship, here in the TIME Vault: Florida: A Place in the Sun

TIME Law

Texas Moves Closer to Allowing Guns on College Campuses

UT Chancellor William McRaven, a retired Navy admiral, opposes the measure

The Texas Senate approved a bill on Thursday that would allow people to carry concealed handguns on college campuses.

Supporters say the measure, which has the backing of gun rights groups, will help licensed students over 21 better protect themselves. The Senate voted on the measure along party lines, and the Republican-controlled House is taking it up next week.

But the move to legalize licensed weapons on campuses has prompted opposition from law enforcement and university leaders, including University of Texas System Chancellor William McRaven, a retired Navy admiral who oversaw the operation that killed Osama bin Laden.

“I continue to remain apprehensive about the effects of this legislation on UT System institutions and our students, staff, patients and visitors,” McRaven said in a statement to TIME. “I continue to hear from students, parents, staff and faculty about their uneasiness related to this legislation. In light of this, it is my responsibility to continue to express our concerns as the Senate bill goes to the House and the House bill goes through the process.”

While most states either ban concealed arms on campus or leave the decision to colleges and universities individually, seven states have provisions that allow for concealed weapons on public post-secondary campuses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Several Republican-held legislatures, including in Florida and Montana, are also considering easing their restrictions on weapons on campuses.

While the Texas legislature has failed to pass similar bills three times since 2009, this bill has strong backing in the House and Governor Greg Abbott has expressed his support.

Still, student groups and higher education leaders are voicing their opposition.

“There is great concern that the presence of handguns, even if limited to licensed individuals age 21 or older, will lead to an increase in both accidental shootings and self-inflicted wounds,” McRaven wrote in an open letter to state leaders in January.

— Charlotte Alter contributed reporting.

TIME Education

Disbanded University of Oklahoma Frat Considering Legal Action

Cites free speech in defending frat members who sang racist chant

A lawyer representing Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity announced Friday that his clients are “not ruling out” legal action against the University of Oklahoma for disbanding the fraternity chapter and expelling two members after a video emerged of the group singing a racist chant.

Citing free speech laws, lawyer Stephen Jones said Friday that the disbanded chapter was exploring legal action against the university for shutting them down. “The university still has codes of conduct,” Jones said. “Whether any of those trump the First Amendment is yet to be determined.” Jones has previously represented Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

“Above all else, the board of the local chapter that I represent is concerned about the physical safety” of the students, Jones said, noting that some members have been “afraid to go to class.”

Jones slammed the University of Oklahoma for making a “premature rush to judgement” and questioned whether the University was allowed to “censure something or discipline them for nothing more than speech.”

He did not announce a specific lawsuit, and noted that SAE was hoping to find some other resolution, but said that he and the fraternity were reviewing their options.

The University of Oklahoma released a statement saying, “The University is continuing its investigation into the recent events relating to SAE and is seeking to learn all the relevant facts and circumstances surrounding those events. The University does not comment on any pending litigation.”

TIME Civil Rights

Inside the Home Where MLK Planned the Selma-to-Montgomery March

American religious and Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. watches US President Lyndon Johnson on television, Selma, Alabama, March 1965.
Frank Dandridge—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images American religious and Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. watches President Lyndon Johnson's voting rights speech on television, Selma, Alabama, March 1965.

The home remains today just as it did 50 years ago

Last week, President Obama and the rest of the nation gathered in Selma, Ala., to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday. But another pivotal moment on the road to equal voting rights took place a week after that violent day, on March 15, 1965, when President Lyndon B. Johnson made his famous “We Shall Overcome” speech urging lawmakers to pass the Voting Rights Act.

Martin Luther King, Jr., who had been pushing President Johnson to publicly advocate for such a law, was at a friend’s home in Selma on the night of the momentous speech. The one-story house owned by Sullivan and Richie Jean Sherrod Jackson, where King lived for several months in the lead-up to the Selma-to-Montgomery marches, became an operational headquarters of sorts for him and other members of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The home and the family that owned it are depicted in several scenes in the biopic Selma.

“There were people staying in this house that were dedicated to the progressive movement of African Americans from the early 1900s,” says Jawana Jackson, the daughter of Sullivan and Richie Jean. Built in 1906 by local black educator and businessman R.B. Hudson, the home had in its early days hosted important Alabama leaders such as Booker T. Washington, according to Jackson. In the 1960s, when Sullivan and Richie Jean lived in the home, prominent black ministers regularly stayed there as they attended training sessions and meetings at nearby Selma University.

After the SCLC selected Selma as the location to launch its voting rights campaign, King and several other Civil Rights leaders, including C.T. Vivian, Andrew Young and Ralph Abernathy, regularly held meetings and slept at the Jackson home. In the weeks before the marches, as many as 25 to 30 people would cram into the three-bedroom home, sleeping on couches and even in the bathtub. On March 9, two days after Bloody Sunday, U.S. Assistant Attorney General John Doar visited the home to warn King against trying to immediately stage another march to Montgomery. King greeted the attorney in Sullivan Jackson’s pajamas, according to historian Taylor Branch’s At Canaan’s Edge: America in the King Years.

Jawana Jackson was a 6-year-old girl as these historic events were unfolding. She recalls making mudpies for King, whom she calls “Uncle Martin,” and serving him with her children’s tea set. “He was always caring,” she says now. “He was always available. I had no clue that this man was changing the world, but I did have a sense that something powerful was going on because of the energy in this home.”

On March 15, King sat in the Jacksons’ living room and watched the President deliver his historic speech. LIFE photographer Frank Dandridge, who had previously photographed the aftermath of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Ala., was embedded in the home and captured several powerful images of King intently watching one of his goals coming to fruition. “The world wanted to see his expression as the President spoke,” says Jackson.

Though the Jacksons continued to live in the house until Richie Jean’s death in 2013, they decided to preserve its appearance because they recognized its historical significance. The home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in January 2014. Today the bed where King slept and the phone he used to talk with President Johnson are still intact. Though the home is not currently set up for general admission, interested parties can visit the Jackson Foundation website to book a private tour or offer a donation. “People will have an opportunity to see a special side of the Selma movement,” says Jackson. “Really a side of the Civil Rights Movement that is rarely seen.”

TIME Race

The Historical Roots of Fraternity Racism

Students demonstrating in 1961
Joseph Scherschel—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Students demonstrating against the integration of African American students at the University of Georgia in 1961

The coupling of lynching metaphors with the chanting of segregationist “never” pledge is not accidental

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

Correction appended, March 17, 2015

The response of the University of Oklahoma to the tape of its campus Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) members cheerfully singing a vile racist chant has been one of shock and outrage. This has been reflected in public rallies on campus condemning the ugly racism on that tape and in the swift and decisive action by the university president David Boren in denouncing and closing down the offending fraternity. But while my initial reaction too was outrage at this racist display, as a historian who has researched segregationist student activism in the 1950s and 1960s South, my next thought was of how eerily familiar the fraternity behavior on that tape seemed to be.

The tape shows cheerful, white, well dressed frat boys repeatedly singing “You can hang him from a tree, but he’ll never sign with me. There will never be a [n—-r in] SAE.” What astonished me was how reminiscent this chant by Oklahoma fraternity members in 2015 was of the chant of segregationist fraternity members at the University of Georgia in January 1961. Though separated by more than a half century in both cases a lynching reference was combined with the chanting of a pledge to keep the segregationist fraternity tradition intact.

The only difference between the racist chants in 2015 and 1961 that I can discern is that the fraternities today seem more inclined to do their chanting in private. At Oklahoma this semester the chant came in what started out as a private fraternity setting (a bus apparently transporting fraternity members from some fraternity-related event). The privacy was, of course, violated by the leaking of the tape of the chant, but clearly the chant was not designed for public consumption. The Georgia chant, on the other hand, was made in public, at a segregationist rally at the campus historic archway entrance in January 1961 at the height of the university’s integration crisis. Some 150-200 Georgia students had just hung a black faced effigy of Hamilton Holmes, who along with Charlayne Hunter, had in January 1961 become the first African American student to attend the historically segregated University of Georgia. The white students first “serenaded the effigy with choruses of Dixie and then sang “There’ll never be a [n—-r] in the ________ fraternity house,” whose various names they inserted. Clearly, UGA students in 1961, operating in a historically segregated university and a segregated college town (Athens, Georgia) did not feel the pressure their 21st century fraternity counterparts do — at racially integrated campuses — to keep their racist displays to themselves. But if the venue was different the racist sentiment and mode of expression were virtually identical.

The coupling of lynching metaphors with the chanting of a segregationist pledge “never” to integrate is not accidental. Lynching symbolizes black powerlessness, while white pledges to sustain segregation permanently evoke the power and endurance of white supremacy. The implication seems to be that even if the university integrates the fraternity will remain an outpost of white supremacy and racial exclusion.

The similarity between the racist fraternity chants in these two centuries raises questions about fraternity history and culture that should be of as much interest to university presidents as to historians. It suggests that the responsibility for the ugly racist chant at the Oklahoma SAE rests not merely with the individuals who sang on that bus but the larger fraternity culture. How, we ought to ask, is it possible that these racist chants have endured for generations? Who is it that preserves such racist traditions and transmits them to each new college generation? This seems a clear case of cultural preservation, transmission, and reproduction. And it is all the more striking because this hoary racist tradition attracts adherents and admirers well into our century when modern science and social science have long since refuted white supremacist assumptions. Finally, we need to ask why even on racially integrated campuses, such as Oklahoma, fraternities remain so racially exclusive that such vintage segregationist chants can be sung so shamelessly. The historical roots of this racist fraternity tradition and the political, cultural and demographic props that sustain it must be understood and confronted honestly if the ghost of Jim Crow is ever to be banished from frat row.

Robert Cohen is a professor of Social Studies and History at New York University, co-editor with David J. Snyder of “Rebellion in Black and White: Southern Student Activism in the 1960s” and editor of “The Essential Mario Savio: Speeches and Writings That Changed America.”

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the author’s first name. It is Robert.

TIME Civil Rights

5 of the Most Influential Protests in History

Kapadwamj, India, 6th May, 1930, Gandhi volunteers in camp at Kapadwanj watching members of their band making salt following the civil disobedience riots and demonstrations demanding the boycotting of British goods and the arrest of leader Mahatma Gandhi
Popperfoto—Getty Images Protestors watching members of their band making salt following the civil disobedience riots and demonstrations demanding the boycotting of British goods and the arrest of leader Mahatma Gandhi in Kapadwamj, India on May 6, 1930.

On the 85th anniversary of Gandhi’s Salt March, a look back at some of the world’s most important acts of defiance

When Mohandas Gandhi began his famous Salt March 85 years ago today, on Mar. 12, 1930, he couldn’t have known the influence it would wield on the history of India and the world. Not only did it play a major role in India’s eventual freedom from British rule, but it also went on to inspire future protestors to incredible acts of civil disobedience.

In honor of the anniversary, we’ve rounded up five major protests that served as inspiration for future protestors, from ancient times to the modern day.

1. Gandhi’s Salt March

Under British rule, Indians were prohibited from collecting or selling salt—Britain had a monopoly on that staple product, and taxed it heavily. Gandhi assembled his supporters in 1930 to march 240 mi. from his ashram to the Arabian Sea to collect salt from the ocean. The crowd snowballed along the way; more than 60,000 Indians were arrested for breaking the salt law. It was an ideal method of protest, because collecting salt was a completely non-violent activity and involved a commodity that was truly important to Indians. The protest continued until Gandhi was granted bargaining rights at a negotiation in London. India didn’t see freedom until 1947, but the salt satyagraha (his brand of civil disobedience) established Gandhi as a force to be reckoned with and set a powerful precedent for future nonviolent protestors, including Martin Luther King Jr.

Read TIME’s original 1930 cover story about the Salt March, here in the TIME Vault: Pinch of Salt

2. The March on Washington

By 1963, African Americans had been freed from slavery for a century yet continued to live lives burdened by inequality in every realm of society. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was intended to push lawmakers to pass legislation that address these inequalities, and its organizers were so successful that more than 200,000 supporters turned out for the action—double their estimate. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered perhaps the most famous speech in American history, his “I Have a Dream” address, at the base of the Lincoln Memorial, and the leaders met with President Kennedy afterwards to discuss their goals. The march was credited with helping build support to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and its messages of the hard work to build equality are echoed today from the Ferguson protests to President Obama’s recent speech in Selma, Ala.

3. Lysistrata

Though Aristophane’s comedy was fictional, it held real-life lessons for future generations: In the 5th-century-BC play, the protagonist organizes Greek women to agree not to have sex with their husbands and lovers until they can forge peace and end the Peloponnesian War. Silly as the concept may sound, sex strikes have been used as peacekeeping measures in modern societies from Colombia to the Philippines. Perhaps most notably, women in Liberia included a sex strike in their Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace that successfully ended the 13-year Second Liberian Civil War—and got a female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, elected. Sirleaf and organizer Leymah Gbowee won the Nobel Peace Prize for their work.

4. The Self-Immolation of Thich Quang Duc

The Vietnamese Buddhist monk did not invent the act of burning oneself to death, but his self-immolation on the street in Saigon in 1963 to protest the treatment of Buddhists in South Vietnam shocked the world and created a horrific new genre of political protest. Like many forms of suicide, self-immolation proved contagious: other Vietnamese monks followed suit, as did an American in Washington, D.C. to protest the war. Tunisian fruit vendor Mohamed Bouazizi is credited with sparking the Arab Spring uprising in 2010 with his self-immolation to protest his treatment by the oppressive government, and more than 100 Tibetans have self-immolated in the last five years in protest of Chinese rule.

5. Take Back the Night

Since the 1970s, events under the Take Back the Night umbrella have protested violence against women in the form of marches and rallies around the world, often in direct response to specific murders of women. The movement set a precedent for future actions concerned with female safety and sexuality, like SlutWalk, a march that began in 2011 to oppose a statement by a Toronto Police Constable that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.” More recently, Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz has protested her university’s decision to allow her alleged rapist to remain on campus with her project “Carry that Weight,” in which she hauls her dorm mattress everywhere she goes.

Read TIME’s definitive ranking of the top 10 most influential protests of all time here.

TIME justice

Ferguson Police Chief Resigns After Damning Justice Dept. Report

Protestors and elected officials have been calling for Thomas Jackson's resignation

The police chief of Ferguson announced Wednesday he is resigning his post, after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old resulted in an excoriating Justice Department report on his department.

Thomas Jackson submitted his resignation letter on Wednesday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported. “I believe this is the appropriate thing to do at this time,” Jackson told the newspaper. “This city needs to move forward without any distractions.”

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles said at a news conference on Wednesday that Jackson and the city had agreed to a “mutual separation” that will take effect on March 19. Jackson will receive severance payment and health insurance for one year.

“He felt that this was the best forward, not only for the city but for the men and women serving under him,” Knowles said.

The Department of Justice issued a report last week that found systemic racial bias in Ferguson’s police department as well as a court system driven by profits. The report cited racial profiling by police officers and alleged that the court system functioned as a money-making enterprise that targeted the poor and minorities.

Protestors and some of Missouri’s top elected leaders had previously called on Jackson to step down from his post as police chief in the St. Louis suburb for his handling of the August shooting of teenager Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. The shooting provoked days of often violent unrest in Ferguson, and inspired protests across the U.S.

Two police officers, a court clerk, the municipal judge and the city manager have either been fired or resigned since the shooting.

[St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

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