Wright Thompson makes the point, “What is the cost of knowing our past, and what is the cost of not?”
As Mississippians, we probably don’t talk about the past enough. We want to sweep it under the rug and move on, but in the recently aired “Ghosts of Ole Miss,” ESPN’s “30 for 30” series takes a look at race relations and football in Mississippi 50 years ago.
We generally all know the story of James Meredith being the first African American to enroll at the University of Mississippi. And we generally know that he had to be led in by federal marshals, because we as a state were still too stuck in hatred to be able to take a serious look at ourselves.
What we really don’t know is the story that Wright tells in “Ghosts of Ole Miss” in which he, like so many of us, wrestles with the role his ancestors might have played in the racism that led to riots following the 1962 integration at Ole Miss.
“If you are not from the South, I hope you watch this and realize how far my state has come, what incredible changes have been realized in the past 50 years,” said Thompson, a Mississippi native. “If you are from the South, I hope you watch and realize how far we have left to travel.”
From my standpoint, I couldn’t have been more proud of a group of people than I am of the 1962 Ole Miss football team.
After watching “Ghosts of Ole Miss”, I was struck by the courage and determination of that Johnny Vaught-led team at a time when it would have been easy to go along with the crowd.
Yes, the story is still, and will forever be, that James Meredith fought against all odds to break down racial barriers for future generations.
Yet, out of so much negative that we have learned and heard in the last 50 years, it is uplifting to know there was a group of young men who learned hard lessons and then fought hard on the football field to show a wonderful and inspiring side of Mississippi that can be, and has been, so easy to ignore.
First, thank you to Mr. Meredith for sacrificing for all of us and forging a new path.
Thank you Mr. Thompson for the amazing words you offer a still healing state.
Thank you director Fritz Mitchell for helping the viewer explore, “What is the cost of knowing our past, and what is the cost of not?”
And thank you to the men of the undefeated 1962 Ole Miss football team for being role models and giving us an inspiring look back at a time which has been so painful to recall.