Why do Haley Barbour and his black classmate remember Ole Miss differently?

A truism of human nature is that people tend to see the same event from different perspectives, sometimes vastly different. And, as a black Southerner, I can testify to the very different perspectives black and white Southerners of about my age often bring to segregation and the civil rights movement.

In a recent interview with the conservative magazine Human Events, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour had very sunny and pleasant memories of desegregation, as well as a self-serving and historically inaccurate description of the role Southern Republicans played. Washington Post columnist Gene Robinson ripped Barbour to shreds over that in a recent column.

I agree with Robinson wholeheartedly about Barbour’s deliberate political misinterpretations, but I’m also fascinated by his personal memories of his student days at Ole Miss in the mid-1960s. I remember that era as one of fiery segregations attempting to keep black kids out of state-sponsored schools, but Barbour, speaking to a group of reporters on Wednesday, claimed to remember that time as quite pleasant.

Maybe he does remember it that way. But one of his black classmates, interviewed by McClatchy, has very different memories:

It’s hard to believe that Haley Barbour and Verna Bailey attended the same University of Mississippi in 1965, and even sat next to each other in a class.

Barbour, who’s now the governor of Mississippi and a possible contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, recalls that time — when Ole Miss was being forced to integrate — as “a very pleasant experience.”

Bailey does not. At times, she said, “I thought my life was going to end.”

He’s white. She was the first black female to attend.

Their seats were assigned alphabetically, and he said they developed a friendly rapport. She let him copy her notes when he skipped class.

“I still love her,” he quipped.

He remembers her name almost as if it were yesterday, though he’d recalled her middle name as Lee. It’s Ann. . .

In an interview last month with the conservative magazine and website Human Events, Barbour said it was “my generation who went to integrated schools. I went to an integrated college, never thought twice about it.”

It was the old Democrats who clung to segregation, he said. “By my time people realized that was the past, that was indefensible, wasn’t going to be that way anymore.” He said that “the people who really changed the South from Democrat to Republican (were) a different generation from those who fought integration.”

That interview set off a backlash from black commentators, who accused Barbour of everything from being clueless to pushing revisionist history.

Barbour defended those comments Wednesday at a Washington reporters’ breakfast.

“When I became a Republican in the late ’60s, in my state and probably some other Southern states the hard right were all Democrats,” he said. “They didn’t want to have Republicans because, in their words, ‘It split the white vote.’ And young people were more likely to be Republicans than our grandparents.”

That’s when he brought up Bailey.

He said she was “a very nice girl” who “happened to be an African-American, and, God bless her, she let me copy her notes the whole time. And since I was not prone to go to class every day, I considered it a great — it was a great thing, it was just — there was nothing to it. If she remembers it, I would be surprised. She was just another student. I was the student next to her.”

Bailey, reached by phone, reacted to Barbour’s story with surprise that bordered on confusion.

“I don’t remember him at all, no, because during that time that certainly wasn’t a pleasant experience for me,” she said. “My interactions with white people were very, very limited. Very, very few reached out at all.”

I don’t think either of them is lying. But it’s clear that Barbour, a white man, and Bailey, a black woman, had very different experiences at Ole Miss in 1965, something Barbour never noticed.

134 comments Add your comment

Christopher Chance

September 10th, 2010
8:52 pm

…Nothing is Free………..actually, I’m playing a number of poker tournaments online at Pokerstars. Chatting with imbeciles like you amuse me. Makes it easier to deal with having to fold a bunch of hands when I’m catching garbage hole cards.

Keep up the good fight!

September 10th, 2010
8:52 pm

Again…enjoy the bullying? The mommy vote? That took a spine for a worm…..

Kamchak

September 10th, 2010
8:54 pm

Swampy Nowhere Man

Tell me again how small businesses and large businesses that have been under attack by this administration since 2007?>/i>

Did you run this by Fox News before posting?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Hootinanny Yum Yum

September 10th, 2010
8:56 pm

Just to recap Cynthia’s latest posts:

* Why do Haley Barbour and his black classmate remember Ole Miss differently?
* In memoriam: A Muslim victim of 9/11, a Muslim soldier
* ‘Free market’ rules don’t work for health care
* Haley Barbour’s ‘dog whistle’: It’s OK to think Obama’s Muslim
* To cut the deficit, raise taxes on the rich
* Muslims become scapegoats of a nativist surge
* Summer of discontent: Backlash to the browning of America
* Another rig burns, showing need for more oversight
* Where would Speaker Boehner cut spending?
* Fewer illegal immigrants, but more anti-immigrant fury

Kind of like a broken record, isn’t it? From the mind of Pullet Surprise winner.

Keep up the good fight!

September 10th, 2010
9:11 pm

Dum Dum…. I am sure if Ms. Tucker were here now she would certainly point out that you can go to any number of other blogs. There’s a whole world out there. If you dont like her opinion, you can surely find one you like.

Kamchak

September 10th, 2010
9:19 pm

If you dont like her opinion, you can surely find one you like.

If all else fails, they can go to blogspot—AND START THEIR OWN BLOG!!!!!!!!

kayaker 71

September 10th, 2010
9:22 pm

CT,

You seem to be stuck somewhere in the 60s or the 70s with an occasional foray into present day. Some things must have happened back there to form the way you perceive present day race relations. I cannot imagine living under Jim Crow laws but these have not been part of our society for the last 30 or so years. Hard to forget? But when you let them form every single opinion about race that you have, it skews an otherwise valid opinion and an intelligent voice. Opinion writers have a mission in life. That is to change the way others think. You’ll never succeed by continuing to harbor all of this racial undercurrent and discontent. It’s just a Mexican standoff which accomplishes very little. A lot of us have baggage which seems to cloud their perspective but in your line of work, baggage is the enemy. It only serves to get in the way of good debate. Think about it.

Hootinanny Yum Yum

September 10th, 2010
9:23 pm

It’s MISTER Dum Dum to you.

To be truthful, I enjoy reading her blogs. She a the poster child for racial bigotry and fanning the flames of racism.

She does everything she can to “Keep The HATE Alive”.

No, I’ll stay here. If you don’t care for MY comments regarding HER opinions. YOU may go elsewhere.

Dacula voter

September 10th, 2010
9:27 pm

Cynthia, have you ever talked to James Meredith? You might learn a thing or two. Of course, he doesn’t come from the blame America first mentality of your ilk so I imagine you wouldn’t pay much attention to him.

Sarah Palin

September 10th, 2010
9:29 pm

I shoot ilk from my helicopter.

Scout

September 10th, 2010
9:29 pm

If any of you looked in the Western Sky at late dusk today you saw what used to be a beautiful “crescent moon” with the bright planet Venus in close proximity. Now that waning crescent moon and “star” reminds many of us of the evil that is present in the world.

Christopher Chance

September 10th, 2010
9:55 pm

Just a classic example of what I’m talking about when it comes to McCann’s refusal to block a wild pitch. Instead of blocking the low and outside pitch by Venters……..he just stuck his backhand out there and the ball went to the screen.

It’s plays like that that just kill us. At some point, you’d think that our coaches would either teach McCann how to block a wild pitch……..or get on his fat A$$ when he chooses to be lazy by doing the back hand thing.

Christopher Chance

September 10th, 2010
9:55 pm

Oops, wrong blog, lol.

nopology

September 10th, 2010
10:16 pm

Hate to say it – gotta go! This crap is getting way too old. CT- you go girl! 1960s 4eva!

Concerned American

September 10th, 2010
10:41 pm

You who call yourself keep up the good fight, what’s your problem? You have some deep seated anger that medication might help. Anyone that can be so outraged on a racist blog site as this needs to be kept off the street. Does your mother know you have internet access?

Rayneesha Peeples Mack

September 10th, 2010
10:48 pm

You black Cindy? Laaaawdy, Rayneesha and her chidren all thinkin you porter rigans! Ima still read what you writes

The Real Sarah

September 10th, 2010
11:34 pm

I take congress back from the fascist from my helicopter

Joel

September 11th, 2010
12:20 am

Keep.. why cant you make a point with out putting people down?

Joel

September 11th, 2010
12:22 am

Keep..you are not entitled to make up your own definition of racism

Joel

September 11th, 2010
12:23 am

keep… something tells me you wouldnt talk such a game in person

RTW

September 11th, 2010
3:39 am

Unfortunately racism exists. It always has. People tend to be drawn to others just like them. Unfortunately most people these days attribute racism mostly to white people. Why? 200 plus years of American history and the fact the the majority typically dominates the minority. People are people and we are all guilty of racism. Don’t be fooled. Look at all cultures, and yes Cynthia, African-American, we are all guilty. To deny it is just baiting. Check your history. Racism is wrong, but is not attributable to just one group. Just saying.

Lil' Barry Bailout

September 11th, 2010
6:28 am

Christopher Chance: dude, I’m as white as they come.
——————–

And as I guessed, incapable of understanding how bigoted your earlier statement is.

Lil' Barry Bailout

September 11th, 2010
10:17 am

Cynthia Tucker’s ‘dog whistle’: Why do Haley Barbour and his black classmate remember Ole Miss differently?
3:00 pm September 10, 2010, by ctucker
—————————————————————–

Hypocrisy.

M. Rowan

September 11th, 2010
11:11 am

Per my comment yesterday @3:50 that Mrs. Tucker responded to.

I may have misspoken, because it isn’t you single handedly keeping this alive, but a breed of reporters just like you that seem to me to be stuck in the past. Take this article for example. Of course they had different experiences in college in the 60’s. Anyone with the most rudimentary understanding of history knows that is a fact.

However, that brings me to my point of this article. Not to sound callous, but when do you ever get over it and move on? You simply can’t change the past, and since America today doesn’t even come close to resembling the 60’s, what is the point in continuing the incessant drumbeat of how you were wronged in the past? It doesn’t and ignores the fact that an African American has every advantage today that anyone else has. It is time for you to start to take responsibility for your lives and if something doesn’t go your way, then odds are that you played a role in the negative outcome.

Hatred and racism have existed forever. African americans may hate to hear this, but it is not your cross to bear as a race. You are simply not unique in the fact that you have been wronged in the past. Almost every race has……look at the Jewish people. If anybody on this planet has the right to carry a chip on their shoulder, they do. However, I never hear of them complaining about the holocaust even 1/10 as much as you hear American blacks talk about racism.

Take a lesson rom them, accept that the past happened and focus your efforts on positive efforts centered around life today.

We would all be much better off.

M. Rowan

September 11th, 2010
11:16 am

Used efforts 2 time in last sentence. Only problem with iPad is getting the grammar correct! :)

Donelsco/RBE

September 11th, 2010
12:05 pm

As long time GOP activist my memories of “post” segregation 60’s tells me Haley Barbour’s comments are attempts to inoculate himself against possible racism charges. Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t? At any rate his chairmanship at the RNC isn’t exactly remembered for its efforts towards broadening the party. Despite his age and attempts at revising history Haley is a product of the Ole South. Hopefully he will spare the public from revisiting that unfortunate period through not pursuing the presidency.

Robert in MS.

September 11th, 2010
2:19 pm

They are probably both correct. You have to remember that he’s talking about “Southern Democrats”. Stennis, Eastland, Ross Barnett. Anybody familiar with politics, desegregation and civil rights know that Southern Democrats dominated southern politics and THEY opposed and were the force that stood in the way of “civil integration” The first Republicans (as I recall) were considered more progressive, but fiscally conservative. OF course the Republican party has evolved tremendously since then. By ‘65 less and less young whites seemed opposed to the few blacks that populated the “white” schools in the south. I do recall panic and frustration(even violence) in major Northern cities in the late sixties, early seventies… as busing to end segregation in the northern states became an issue.

Aaron

September 11th, 2010
9:49 pm

Whoever said the President is black needs to rethink his position. Stanley Ann Dunham (his mother) is very much a white lady. The black half of him doesn’t round up; this doesn’t make him black. Barack Obama is a white man.

elmer

September 12th, 2010
3:24 pm

What Haley Barbour fails to remember is that all of the racist Democrats or “Dixicrats” then became Republicans. I grew up in Yazoo City in the 60s and 70s. For a while, we rented a house across the street from the Barbour family on Madison. Prejudice was real back then and still is. Both racists and very enlightened people live in Mississippi. The good ole boys still run things, however. They still separate themselves with their private academies (which spawned during desegregation.) Most of the wealthy white families sent their children to Manchester Academy in Yazoo City, which started in the bottom of the basement of the Methodist church. When I was living in Yazoo City there was a black Catholic churh and a white Catholic church. ….and it was accepted. Even after desegretation there was and is segregation. Haley Barbour is living a fantasy.

Barclay

September 12th, 2010
5:57 pm

Southern Democrats began moving into the Republican Party with Goldwater and Nixon’s “Southern Strategy.” Goldwater voted against the 1964 Civil Rights Act endeared him to people like Strom Thurmond and Nixon went after those angry white southerners fed up with the Kennedy-Johnson Democratic Party and its support for Civil Rights. Haley Barbour’s Republican identity coincides with that appeal.

L

September 13th, 2010
12:25 pm

These comments are very telling, we live in a “24hr” news world and people still get the “news” wrong….
There were no Blacks stopping whites from voting in Philly. The black panthers were in an all black polling place and were against Obama. Obama is closer to being a white man then some “white” people skin color is sooo blinding in this country….this man was born to Blonde hair blue eyed women and he is the first “black” president

Constructive Feedback

September 13th, 2010
1:39 pm

Dear Cynthia Tucker:

Do you realize how predictable you are?

Haley Barbour made the mistake of putting the blame of racism upon the Democrats and thus this set you off more than anything else. He violated the tale that is popular in the Black community that says that all racist Democrats became Dixiecrats and then Republicans. It is quite strange however, that Barbour is only the second GOP governor from MS since Reconstruction. Go to Wikipedia and check out the US Congressional history and the make up of the state legislature.

I wonder if you will ever tell the tale of the present day distress that our people are suffering in school as our young people are assigned to classes with “street pirates in training” that confiscate quality instruction time today from within the classroom just as the governor of AL did while standing in the entrance of the school.

Dean Chambers

September 13th, 2010
8:23 pm

Right on Cynthia,

Thanks for another great article. Barbour is a perfect example of why we need to remember these stories, he is influential and there are many like him still around who resist change and do all they can to prevent it, after all it was Barbour who defended his friend in Virginia when he romanticized the confederacy and never whimpered a word about the abusive legacy of slavery; it was Barbour front seat fighting health care and demonizing Obama without any sound logic.

The wingnuts on the right seem to forget that this history was not so long ago, there are many people like Barbour who suffer from this kind of mentality, many wingnuts like him who weigh in here and try to call us dividers for bringing up such important issues are so unaware of their white privilege and will never admit to it. Yes we are not “Post Racial” that is a joke, and every time a right wing mentality Foxs news loving idiot feels like they get the short end any kind of justice they are the first ones to cry “Reverse Discrimination” and then rant on about how important race still it in america. When the tables are turned they tell us to shut up because we are in America and therefore there is nothing to discuss? It was really not so long ago that African Americans had to sit in the back of the bus and drink from different fountains, we should never let our children know the price we paid for freedom. If some people want to get defensive about it too bad, maybe they should sit in a classroom and listen to black history for a change, after all most african americans had about 12 yrs of euro history? It is really preposterous that so many whites with no knowledge about the real history want to make us feel like we are complaining when we tell stories they actually never heard, if ya feel some guilt maybe that is what you need to feel, get over it! Dont tell us to get over it, we have, and we have made a considerable amount of progress since the last waves of Jim Crow in the late 60’s, hear that the late 60’s we are not talking 1860’s either.

We still have many rivers to cross and a few old dragons to slay along the way, part of this is about racial equality and much about human dignity for all people.

Dean Chambers

September 13th, 2010
8:24 pm

Correction- WE SHOULD NEVER LET OUT CHILDREN FORGET THE PRICE WE PAID FOR FREEDOM!