Mississippi ‘Hanging’ Senate Candidate Has Always Been A Confederate Rebel

The full story of Cindy Hyde-Smith, Republican incumbent in the race for Thad Cochran’s US Senate seat, is coming into focus at last, and it turns out she was always a rebel in the southern sense of that word.

As a child, Hyde-Smith “attended and graduated from a segregation academy that was set up so that white parents could avoid having to send their children to schools with black students,” the Jackson Free Press reports.

The US Supreme Court ordered Mississippi to integrate its public schools in 1969. “It is no coincidence that the academy Hyde-Smith attended opened the very year after the highest court’s ultimatum, as did others around the state,” reporter Ashton Pittman explains.

The day he announced his compliance, [Governor] Williams made it a priority to focus on private schools as an alternative for white students whose parents were not keen on their children sharing classrooms with black children. The Legislature even approved private-school vouchers for white families to offset the costs of sending their kids to whites-only private schools.

“Lawrence County Academy started because people didn’t want their kids going to school with minorities,” Lawrence County NAACP President Wesley Bridges, who also serves on the local public school board, told the Jackson Free Press on Saturday. “That’s been evident.”

“Cindy Hyde-Smith was a product of that school,” he added.

While hot button culture war issues like abortion and marriage equality have become the marquee items in Republican politics, segregation academies were the definitive beginning of the rightward political shift in modern American evangelical religion, forming a key part of the ‘southern strategy.’ ‘Libertarian’ causes, most notably charter schools, also have their origins in resistance to integration.

Hyde-Smith can be seen in a copy of the 1975 Lawrence County Academy yearbook, The Rebel. She can be seen posing with her fellow cheerleaders under a Confederate battle flag.

The choice of mascots and symbols is telling. Virtually absent from southern life until the US Supreme Court began forcing public school systems to integrate, the Confederate battle flag reappeared as a symbol of white southern opposition to that assertion of federal power.

The Jackson Free Press report is consistent with other reports indicating that Hyde-Smith has deep personal and family ties to infamous segregationists as well as people involved in actual lynchings — a disturbing echo of the candidate’s bizarre public comments about her eagerness to attend a “public hanging” (read: lynching).

Other points of congruence include her history of:

  • Pushing state house resolutions to honor the last daughter of a Confederate soldier — a bill written in the language of the Lost Cause myth of the Civil War
  • Accepting donations from a notorious white supremacist and refusing to return them
  • “Joking” about vote suppression at historically black colleges and universities, calling it “a great idea
  • Taking photos with a neoconfederate hate group leader and posing in a Confederate hat at the Jefferson Davis museum

Hyde-Smith eventually sent her own daughter to another segregation academy. Yet as Pittman notes, she seems to have carefully minimized that chapter of her own education history. “[Her] high school has been conspicuously absent from the senator’s official statements, speeches and public biographies,” he writes. “Even her Facebook account suggests her education began with community college.”

Far from exonerating Cindy Hyde-Smith, the discrepancy is further evidence for consciousness of guilt. She knows exactly what she is saying, and to whom her words appeal.

Featured image via Facebook/Jackson Free Press