“The Two Firsts”

Posted on Feb 18 2013 - 4:00pm by Lacey Russell
Courtney Pearson, crowned Ole Miss' first African-American homecoming queen.

Courtney Pearson, crowned Ole Miss’ first African-American homecoming queen.

Although 33 years separate their time at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss), Rose Flenorl and Courtney Pearson share many similar experiences growing up in the southern United States.

Their time at Ole Miss helps illustrate the racial changes that have been made over the past 50 years at the states oldest university. The University of Mississippi was chartered in 1844, and welcomed its first class of 80 students in 1848. After 114 years, the forced integration of James Meredith ended Ole Miss’ segregation and welcomed new opportunities for African-Americans in Mississippi.

In the fall semester of 1977, while Rose Flenorl was in school, the university’s undergraduate student body was 7.1 percent African-American. While a senior at Ole Miss, Flenorl became the first African-American to run for “Miss Ole Miss,” a position that honored the most involved female on campus. Although she didn’t win, Flenorl made great strides in improving race relations on campus.

Courtney Pearson is a senior education major at Ole Miss. Growing up in a military family, Pearson didn’t move to the south until elementary school. During her senior year, Pearson was elected as homecoming queen and by doing so became the first African-American to win the crown. In the 2012-2013 school year, Ole Miss’ Oxford and regional campuses student body was 16.7 percent African American.

In 2011 the state of Mississippi was reported to have a 38 percent African-American population. Although Ole Miss has made strides, how has race at the university changed?