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

paleo-neo-Carlinist

September 10th, 2010
3:24 pm

CT, it’s Friday, take the rest of the day off. fair or unfiar, honest or dishonest, people remember what they choose to remember and forget what they choose to forget. do you actually think the Guv-nah of Mississippi, who may be “polling” for a shot at the POTUS gonna rememember ANYTHING that would reflect negatively on the State of Mississippi or the GOP? he said/she said “reality TV” nonsense and nothing more. politicians are not dummies; Ronald Reagan “didn’t remember” trading arms for hostages in the 1980’s. nowadays it’s more prudent to remember things nobdody else remembers (you appear less feable-minded). either way, this was 45 years ago.

Jack

September 10th, 2010
3:25 pm

There’s going be a column here one day that I can read and say that Tucker is trying to heal the divide. But not today.

ctucker

September 10th, 2010
3:25 pm

paleo@3:24, Thanks for giving me the rest of the day off! Whew! I needed that

ctucker

September 10th, 2010
3:28 pm

Jack3:25, I think we can only be serious about healing the divide when we are willing to be serious — and respectful — in acknowledging the differences in our various perspectives.

Joel

September 10th, 2010
3:28 pm

Maybe Bailey has a chip on her shoulder?

[...] Why do Haley Barbour and his black classmate remember Ole Miss differently?Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)That interview set off a backlash from black commentators, who accused Barbour of everything from being clueless to pushing revisionist history. …Why Conservatives Want to Rewrite Civil Rights HistoryBlackvoices (blog) [...]

ctucker

September 10th, 2010
3:31 pm

Joel@3:28, If you read what she had to say, it certainly doesn’t sound like it

Nothing Is Free

September 10th, 2010
3:31 pm

ctucker

Please list the Republican leaders from the South that supported segregation.

I’ll make it easier: Name one.

You are on the plantation, girl. I know you don’t want to hear that but the people that wanted to lay down in front of buses were not Republicans, they were DEMOCRATS every time.

And now they own you.

Stop supporting people that think of Black people as pets that they can use to keep the hatred going and step into the 21st century. Then look back and take a look at the condition of many people of your race. How many are in prison. How many children have no idea who their father is?
Very simply put: how has that Democratic leadership worked out for people of color?

So many African Americans say” the Republicans don’t “court” us like the democrats do. Yes the democrats are lying out of their _____’s and they work like the dickens to see that the schools remain segregated (the actual reason for the great Society), but at least they care enough to lie to us.

What kind of logic is that?

But please ( I know you won’t because you can’t) list all those mean old Republicans that ran the South during the 50s and 60s. I’m sure that old “Solid South” meant nothing related to the fact that it was solidly democratic.

Joel

September 10th, 2010
3:33 pm

CT, I am just throwing it out there. I do not claim to know anything about her.

Keep up the good fight!

September 10th, 2010
3:36 pm

Well let’s see. I was only 10 years later attending college. I lived in both in the north and the south growing up, including southwestern Virgina. Maybe because I am a little younger my memory is a little sharper than Haley’s. I remember integrated schools as being a big deal. Discussions of what was appropriate behavior for a N (and it was not a PC word) and even what was a white lunch table and a N table at school. But I guess between those fabulous integrated 60s things must have backslid in the 70s for a bit. Many of the people I met daily in the 70s in the south sure did not seem to think racism and integration was a thing of the past. I can certainly also remember tremendous outrage when a white girl dated outside her race.

I suspect that Mr. Barbour’s current world differs dramatically different than those of many other races.

Nothing Is Free

September 10th, 2010
3:42 pm

Keep up the good whine

I was born in Southwest Virginia and lived in North East Tennessee. Please don’t tell me that you are from Bristol.

Keep up the good fight!

September 10th, 2010
3:44 pm

Free…as usual you want to argue silliness. Yep, no doubt about it. Democrats had any number of racists in the 1950’s and then there were changes. Leaders like Kennedy, Johnson and others. Let’s see, who sent federal troops to protect those blacks entering schools in Mississippi and Alabama….why I do believe there was a D after that name. Why David Duke became so offended he changed parties from D to R. Wallace left the Dems. A number of others left the Dems in the 1960s and later…where did those former Southern Dems go because they felt betrayed by their party in the 1960s and by the Kennedy/Johnson groups….seems they put Rs next to their names.

Joel

September 10th, 2010
3:44 pm

Keep Up… maybe I am picking up the wrong vibe here. It seems like you almost want there to have been racism, and poor treatment. Now I was not there so I may be wrong here. As with the discussion from this morning, could it be radical extreme of southerners were racist, while most were not. As I said before I am was not around than.

Mid-South Philosopher

September 10th, 2010
3:45 pm

I remember the segregation era too, Miss Cynthia. In many ways it was a dark and evil time, yet, it held promise, and much of that promise has been realized.

A group of unsung heroes in that day were the school teachers, both white and black, who met the challenge of the moment and strove to provide the best education possible to youngster regardless of color.

What we often forget is that MOST of the school systems in the south integrated with a minimum of disruption. Of course, that came after the daunting days of Little Rock and many other areas where racism flared.

I remember well, my first black teacher in high school…a good man, a fair man, but over and above all else…a teacher.

That is what I remember most from that era.

Jack

September 10th, 2010
3:48 pm

Fomenting discomfort & ill-feelings among folks is certainly not a serious healing process.

The Boner's Tan Line

September 10th, 2010
3:48 pm

Haley’s jealous because my tanning machine is better than his. Also he hates his first name.

Joel

September 10th, 2010
3:49 pm

Haley is kinda a crappy name, huh?

M. Rowan

September 10th, 2010
3:50 pm

Cynthia, you are the reason that race is even still an issue today. Newsflash! The President of the United States, aka. the most powerful man in the world, is a black man. You can achieve absolutely anything in this country, regardless of race.

I will admit the past isn’t necessarily a pretty picture, but it is just that…….the past. Start writing about how hopeful the future is, and stop dwelling on history, and a story that happened in 1965, 40 years ago.

M. Rowan

September 10th, 2010
3:51 pm

40 + years ago

Keep up the good fight!

September 10th, 2010
3:52 pm

Joel…pure silly post. I acknowledge that there is racism. I dont support it and I do my best to fight it. Having lived through it, I also acknowledge that while gains have been made, it still exists. It is not eliminated but like many other things in live, it has gone underground in some areas until it pops up like an ugly rodent in times. The impacts of the 50s, 60s and 70s are not gone. I saw racism in schools in the North. I have seen it in the South. We can all hope that one day it will be gone but it is not. Nothing is Free and others have proven that with his posts over the past few days. Oh they try to claim is in not racial but I remember some of the same debates in high school. And since 2008 it has seemingly been like a scab scrapped off to open the wounds.

Hootinanny Yum Yum

September 10th, 2010
3:52 pm

Cynthia Tucker, “Keeping the HATE alive!”

Nothing Is Free

September 10th, 2010
3:54 pm

Keep

Kennedy desperately wanted compromises added to the Voting Rights Act because he didn’t think the Dixiecrats would pass it.

Johnson also didn’t think the Dixiecrats would pass it so demanded that it be presented in the exact verbiage that the Republicans that drew it up in 1958 had used. He was convinced that once it hit the floor of the House that it would instantly be buried by the Dixiecrats and that would be that.

Johnson was a segregationist. His record before he became president was abysmal.

It doesn’t matter how many times Democrats claim that both parties were responsible for Segregation, it simply was not true.

You talk about who sent in troops. Yes, once the tide began to turn in favor of integration, democrats were screaming “to the bandwagon” but what president had the courage to send in troops to protect the Little Rock Nine, long before any Democrats would have ever considered supporting any black cause. Do you know?

And what was the political Party of the Arkansas Gov. that had refused to admit those kids? Do you even know the governor’s name?

ctucker

September 10th, 2010
3:55 pm

M. Rowan@3:50, Wow, you mean to tell me that I have that much power? I’m singlehandedly “the reason that race is even still an issue today.” No one else has anything to do with that?

hotlanta

September 10th, 2010
3:55 pm

Wow we have a black President and just like Lucky Charms cereal racism is going to “magically disappear. What have you been eating Fruit Loops or coo-coo for CoCo Puffs. I am going to eat some Rasin Bran and flush your comment down the toilet.

AlatSea

September 10th, 2010
3:56 pm

Interesting cut and paste, but unfortunately the majority of your race still act like they are on the plantation. The black man needs to make an effort to close this divide. They have taken treat me equal to a point that is not realistic. They are raised in a culture that keeps them as second class citizens. I worked for HUD in the mid-west during the 70’s, my responsibility was to relocate black families from the run down neighborhoods they lived in to apartment complexes built for them with tax payer money. They paid little or no rent, that was also subsidized by taxpayers. While doing required inspections of these relocated families, some, not all, had cut doorways in their walls into the next apartment so they could hang together in some tribal way. When questioned why, they told me that these were their homes and could what ever they liked. This is similar to the Cabrini Green complex in Chicago. It lead many people to believe that you could take the black from the ghetto but could not take the ghetto out of the black man Nothing here is meant to be taken as racist, it facts.

Hey if anybody sees that keep fightin guy tell him I’m looking for him

Tommy Maddox

September 10th, 2010
3:59 pm

Now folks don’t go blaming Democrats being in charge of Southern States during the days of segregation. You know we’re gonna hear about racist democrats who invaded and populated the GOP…

Didn’t CT attempt a Haley hit-job earlier this week?

Nothing Is Free

September 10th, 2010
4:00 pm

Correction:

The Republicans did not draw up the Voting Rights act in 1958. They altered the original Voting Rights Act of 1872 (also drawn up by a Republican) that had been struck down for violations of the interstate commerce clause. They corrected the violation and after much fighting with Democrats, this was the actual Voting Rights Act that was adopted in 1964.

AlatSea

September 10th, 2010
4:00 pm

Keep up the good fight!
September 10th, 2010
3:52 pm

My god man you are amazing, is there anything you have not done, seen, corrected or made better?

Your full of yourself so get back in the sand. Please give me your condescending retort humiliate me in front of others I know this gets you sexually excited.

Keep up the good fight!

September 10th, 2010
4:01 pm

Why Nothing….you can use wikipedia to find your answers….. Eisenhower would be proud you can do it. But then also spend some time and open your eyes to some of the other history…Truman and the dixiecrat walkout….

Some Guy

September 10th, 2010
4:02 pm

CT, You are really hung up about race! Why is that? You know the saying, “Those that protest the most usually have the most to hide.”. I think this holds true with you.

Hootinanny Yum Yum

September 10th, 2010
4:02 pm

The Socratic method of answering a question with a question is used to stimulate thought. It can also be used for clarification.

However, in Cynthia’s case, it is simply used to avoid answering a question or addressing an issue.

SouthGaDawg

September 10th, 2010
4:02 pm

CT,

Who cares? So what if he remembered it differently? He was white. Of course he wouldn’t care as much as the “first black woman” to attend Ole Miss. She was trying to be a pioneer. And I’m sure he was just there to get an education, drink and chase girls. You’re darn right it wasn’t as big of a deal for him.

Next, stop trying to “dog whistle” Barbour into being a liar. I’m sure his account of it is to the best of his memory 45 years ago. Is your memory from a year ago perfect? How about 10 years ago? How about 20 years ago? I bet not. So don’t criticize him if his memory from 45 years ago may be a little off.

Finally, why don’t you ever write any type of uplifting stories about racial, social, religous, or political unity? Instead its more of the same old drivel from you meant to drive a wedge futher between the various classes, races, and religions of America. You are truley a sad and angry person. I feel sorry for you Cynthia Tucker.

Jimmy62

September 10th, 2010
4:04 pm

Of course they had different experiences. What a silly column! I was in a fraternity in college, and I knew people who weren’t. I’m sure we had very different experiences, even without one of us having to deal with integration. I remember fraternity rush as a very pleasant experience. People who didn’t join frats often had a less pleasant experience.

This column can be summed up in one easy sentence, “Different people have different experiences even when they live in the same place.” I can’t believe you get paid to write this.

rant and roll

September 10th, 2010
4:07 pm

“Please list the Republican leaders from the South that supported segregation.”

Jesse Helms and Strom Turmond. Two Dixiecrats – that broke from the Democrtatic Party and joined the GOP.

Keep up the good fight!

September 10th, 2010
4:08 pm

Nothing….. since you probably did not read Gene Robinson’s article, here is an excerpt

As he signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act into law, Lyndon Johnson is supposed to have said that the Democratic Party had “lost the South for a generation.” Among those who voted against the landmark legislation was Sen. Barry Goldwater, who became Johnson’s opponent in the presidential race that fall.

Johnson scored a landslide victory. Goldwater took his home state of Arizona and just five others: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. It was the first time those Deep South states had voted for a Republican presidential candidate since Reconstruction — and marked the moment when, for many Southern voters, the GOP became the party of white racial grievance. It wasn’t “a different generation from those who fought integration” that made the switch. Integration was the whole reason for the switch.

hotlanta

September 10th, 2010
4:09 pm

Ms. Tucker ignore that fool they blamed OJ for bad race relations in this country. They tried to divide us by saying the black folks who said he was not guilty and yelled “YES” were bad negroes and those who said he was guilty and cried were good Negroes. They are always telling black folks to take PERSONAL responsibility for our actions but they can’t never take it for theirs. They have a court system to back them up.

Nothing Is Free

September 10th, 2010
4:09 pm

keep

While the Northern Democrats had some disagreements with the Dixiecrats, they certainly accepted their electoral college votes to put Kennedy and Johnson in office.

YOU also may want to consider that in 1976, 12 years after Southern Schools had been integrated, the worst race riots in the country broke out in South Boston, the district of the Kennedies. THen you had Bedford Stivenson in New York City in the mid 70s.

The one thing all the districts that had horrible race problems had in common: they were ALL (both North and South) ran by Democrats.

hotlanta

September 10th, 2010
4:11 pm

Nothing I thought you was on a plane running away like Newt when he tried to get Clinton impeached but he was caught with is pants on the ground as well.

PearlJam

September 10th, 2010
4:13 pm

I was there, his side of the story is correct.
She was a very nice girl.
I’m not sure what the issue is, is she saying she was not nice?

Nothing Is Free

September 10th, 2010
4:14 pm

Keep

- -As he signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act into law, Lyndon Johnson is supposed to have said that the Democratic Party had “lost the South for a generation.” – -

So does that sound like he was happy it passed? Doesn’t that seem like an odd thing to say after such a great victory? It didn’t work out like he wanted. He wanted it to be buried.

Nothing Is Free

September 10th, 2010
4:15 pm

hotlanta

Reading skills. Start working on them.

I said I had a plane to catch in the morning. That means tomorrow.

K?

halfbake

September 10th, 2010
4:15 pm

@paleo-neo-Carlinist It’s not he said she said, it’s historical facts we’re talking about here. Do you really think that the ’60s were a pleasant time for blacks in the south attending recently “desegregated” schools. Come on?

And @Joel, what would make you think this woman has a chip on her shoulder? She probably should have one, but there’s nothing in her comments that would lead you to believe that.

Do you really not believe that she was at Ole Miss during an extremely turbulent time in our nation, particularly over race?

Think before you speak. Sound the words out in your head before you dash them off in an online form. You sound cruel and heartless.

Keep up the good fight!

September 10th, 2010
4:17 pm

Nothing…I am well aware of what happened in Boston…I was there in 1976 – in college after graduating from high school in Virginia. Again, read my posts. I acknowledge racism is not a southern thing alone.

But your conclusion that all places where there were racial problems were solely Democratic areas is just absurd and unsupportable with real facts. Racial problems did not only exist in the 1950s, 1960 and 1970s. They existed before that and after. You also seem to ignore the most glaring issue…..The south had slavery.

But stop with the insanity. Get to the real issue. Racism is and has not ended. Its not a “Democratic” thing. Its not just in the tea party. It did not end with the election of a black president.

James

September 10th, 2010
4:17 pm

There is no end game to this madness- “I remember leading my troop up the hill at vietnam” (oh wait- maybe that was a training camp because I never left the states. ‘I never had sex with that woman”- oh wait- what is it call when a woman….. Silly political football.

JF McNamara

September 10th, 2010
4:19 pm

This is the same guy who callously cut people off of medicare in Mississippi when their were other ways to balance the budget and refused to accept the unemployment money for the stimulus that could’ve helped his constituents at no cost.

If Republicans really want this guy, they’d better look out. We’ll go from lying about Obama’s death panels to having actual death panels when he cuts off all of the social programs and pushes tort reform to the point that Big Business can murder an employee and get a $5 fee.

Keep up the good fight!

September 10th, 2010
4:20 pm

Nothing…. I guess you can read Johnson’s mind…. what he meant. Maybe he realized what really happened. By adopting the right position, the Dixiecrats walked over to the republican party and joined Barry Goldwater who voted against the legislation and then they made Barry their candidate. You really do have some very selective reading skills and blinders.

Nothing Is Free

September 10th, 2010
4:21 pm

- -Wow, you mean to tell me that I have that much power? I’m singlehandedly “the reason that race is even still an issue today.” No one else has anything to do with that? –

They need you, Ms. Tucker. The democrats need people like you. The Party that fought to keep your parents from achieving now needs you so they can achieve.

Who has made you successful? The AJC, one of the most liberal newspapers in the country. YOu are a constant contributor to what Network: MSNBC, rated by Pew research as one of the most unreliable news networks in the country.

You are not the only one, but once you stop being used by the democrats, where would your career go?

A "Voice"

September 10th, 2010
4:22 pm

News Flash: Racism is not limited to whites only!

Nothing Is Free

September 10th, 2010
4:24 pm

Keep

So other than Strom Thurman, who were these Dixiecrats that walked over to the Republican Party?

I can save you some time. You won’t find any.

Libertarian

September 10th, 2010
4:24 pm

Will any of you acknowledge that black on white racism also exists?