Project documents Black Man Banned by Mississippi University

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A dying Kennard meeting sister Sara Tarpley on arrival in Chicago after parole in 1963. (Public Domain Image)

By Associated Press

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) – Some University of Southern Mississippi students are working on a project to document the story of a Black man who was barred from attending the university in the 1950s.

Clyde Kennard was denied entry between 1955 and 1959 and later died after inadequate medical treatment while serving prison time for crimes he did not commit, philosophy professor Samuel Bruton said in a news release from the university.

Bruton is teaching the philosophy of law class that is exploring Kennard’s case. He said it gives students a chance to see how the legal process can be corrupted and distorted.

Students have been taking documents related to Kennard’s case and making them accessible in a centralized, accessible digital humanities site. Students researched materials from the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission, transcribed previously recorded interviews and conducted oral histories with people who figured prominently in Kennard’s story.

Cynthia Myles, one of Bruton’s students, said it has been a learning experience.

“Being able to go and conduct oral history interviews is like you are literally speaking to history,” Myles said.

Bruton underscored the importance of remembering and honoring Kennard’s story.

“It is a clear example of racial injustice,” Bruton said. “It is a potent reminder of unconscionable behavior that occurred not so long ago, right here in Hattiesburg and USM.”

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