One year later: Student’s vigil over Ole Miss noose goes on

For almost a year, student Correl Hoyle has maintained a protest in front of the statue.

by Tyler Carter The Root | 2/16/2015, 12:45 p.m.
For almost a year, student Correl Hoyle has maintained a protest in front of the statue.
Correl Hoyle sitting in front of the James Meredith statue on the campus of the University of Mississippi (Photo: Tyler Carter)

If you walk across the middle of the University of Mississippi’s campus on any given day, you’ll probably see sophomore Correl Hoyle sitting in front of the statue of James Meredith. Meredith was the first African American to integrate the University of Mississippi, in 1962. The monument was constructed in his likeness to symbolize inclusion and to honor his courage in braving such a tumultuous environment in order to obtain a quality education.

During Valentine’s Day weekend in 2014, three young white men hung a noose around the neck of the statue of Meredith and also wrapped an old Georgia Confederate flag around the statue. Shortly after the noosing, Hoyle, an English major at the university, began sitting in front of the statue, holding a vigil. For an hour between classes or when his schedule permitted, he sat like a living statue in front of a constructed one with his legs crossed. Some days he would have an inspirational sign; on others, he would play music. Mentally I applauded him but figured he would eventually stop his protest.

On March 2, snow fell and Hoyle sat. On March 3, weeks after the investigation into the statue’s desecration, Hoyle was still there, sitting on the icy ground, shivering and reading a book in bone-chilling, 30-degree weather.

Coming from Tougaloo College, an HBCU, I was taught to be socially conscious, since our institution is one of the birthplaces of the civil rights movement. If injustice arose around us, we were conditioned to protest, march or do whatever was needed to shake the grounds our ancestors had stood on. Here at the University of Mississippi, black students are not as socially conscious. Seeing Hoyle silently protesting in front of the statue consistently reminded me of the days I allowed my voice to be heard.

It was then that I realized Hoyle represented something bigger than himself. Fast-forward to the spring semester of 2015, almost a year after the incident, and you can still walk past the Meredith statue and see Hoyle sitting. One day I decided to join him and discuss his feelings about the incident and why, after almost a year, he continues to protest.

“A lot of people assumed I was angry after the incident, but I was more so shocked,” Hoyle said. “I knew racism still existed in the state and in this country as a whole, but I didn’t know someone or a group would be so blatant about it and it would shake the foundation that I stood on here at the university.

“Never have I experienced something like this at my doorstep, and I was more shocked, but also disappointed because things like this are still happening here. People are still living with the ideology that one race is ... superior to the other, or one class of people is better than the other. This is a sad truth we have to live with.”

A former professor of Hoyle’s inspired the protest. “He said to us, ‘Why should you be afraid to come to this campus?’” Hoyle explained. “‘You paid good money to attend this institution. We technically work for you. You have a voice, no matter how minuscule you think it is.’