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The Education of Mr. Mayfield: An Unusual Story of Social Change at Ole Miss
More than a decade before the media reported on the disturbing events surrounding James Meredith's enrollment at the University of Mississippi in 1962, a different story of interaction between the races quietly took place on that same campus. This story is now told in The Education of Mr. Mayfield.In 1949, soon after arriving in Oxford, Mississippi, as...
More than a decade before the media reported on the disturbing events surrounding James Meredith's enrollment at the University of Mississippi in 1962, a different story of interaction between the races quietly took place on that same campus. This story is now told in The Education of Mr. Mayfield.In 1949, soon after arriving in Oxford, Mississippi, as the school's first Art Department chairman, Stuart Purser was driving through the nearby countryside when he spied some interesting sculptures on the front porch of a small farmhouse near Ecru. When Purser stopped to speak with the African-American artist, his longtime friendship with M.B. Mayfield began.That fall, Purser offered Mayfield a job as custodian for the Art Department and caretaker for the newly opened student art gallery. This was a time when the University of Mississippi was completely segregated. What few outside the Art Department knew was that Purser also gave Mayfield one-on-one instruction and arranged for classroom doors to be left open so Mayfield could listen to lectures while sitting in the nearby broom closet. Later, Purser took Mayfield on his lecture trips, passing Mayfield off as an assistant who carted equipment and set up the projector.The Education of Mr. Mayfield tells the story of how M.B. Mayfield overcame many of the obstacles placed in his way due to racism, but it also tells of the quiet acts of courage displayed by some white Southerners who found ways to defy the injustices of the time and place.
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