The hits just keep on coming for Mississippi Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith, who is currently desperately holding on to her lead over Democrat Mike Espy in a runoff election happening on Tuesday. Today, the Jackson Free Press has an exhaustively researched story into Hyde-Smith’s high school experience, which the Senator has been relatively vague about for most of her career. Turns out, that’s because she went to a “segregation academy” set up by white parents to avoid mandatory integration laws enacted after the Civil Rights movement. Not a good look!
The Free Press got a copy of Hyde-Smith’s high school yearbook at Lawrence County Academy. In photos, a young Cindy Hyde can be seen in her cheerleader’s uniform posing for photos with another girl dressed as a Confederate general posing with a large Confederate battle flag.
Per the Jackson Free Press, she’s not the only “seg academy” alumni in Mississippi politics:
The yearbook, provided to the Jackson Free Press by a former student who asked not to be named, is one of very few pieces of evidence still available that identify the segregation academy as the recently appointed senator’s alma mater. While Hyde-Smith regularly touts her subsequent education at Copiah-Lincoln Community College and the University of Southern Mississippi, her high school has been conspicuously absent from the senator’s official statements, speeches and public biographies. Even her Facebook account suggests her education began with community college.
In that reticence about her high-school years, Hyde-Smith is like the man who appointed her to the U.S. Senate seat, Gov. Phil Bryant, who attended one of the Citizens Council academies set up around Jackson by the virulently racist organization for white families fleeing newly integrated schools. Local newspapers treated announcements from those schools about sports and other honors the same as public schools, while running photos of children with a “Citizens Council: States Rights, Racial Integrity” placard in front of them.
The Free-Press’s article is full of context and quotes from other lawmakers and sources, including Hyde-Smith’s middle-school basketball coach at Lawrence County, who now says he won’t vote for her. It also includes a veteran Mississippi Democrat dunking all over Hyde-Smith: the whole thing is well worth a read.
Former Mississippi Democratic Party Chairman Rickey Cole, who knew Hyde-Smith when she was a Democratic state senator before she became Republican in 2010 to run for state agriculture commissioner, said Hyde-Smith would have known why she was at a school like Lawrence County Academy.
“When the public schools in Mississippi were ordered desegregated, many thousands of white families cobbled together what they could laughingly call a school to send their children to for no other reason except they didn’t want them to be around n-words or to be treated or behave as equal to black people,” Cole said.
Cole attended a public school in Ellisville, Miss., and recalls making fun of the kids in town whose parents drove them 26 miles to Heidelberg Academy and back—more than 100 miles a day—just so they could have a substandard education with teachers who often had little more than a high-school diploma.
“The only reason people of my generation and Cindy’s generation went to segregation academies was to keep the white kids and the black kids apart,” said Cole, who added that he is about six or seven years younger than Hyde-Smith.
Hyde-Smith began shooting herself in the foot in mid-November, when footage emerged of her making a “joke” about public hangings during a campaign event. Mississippi has a brutal history of lynching, and her opponent is black. She followed that zinger up with another bad joke about voter suppression, a half-assed apology for the hanging joke after Walmart pulled its support of her campaign, and has had to return campaign donations because virulent racists keep giving her money.
Hyde-Smith’s rapid self-destruction has led Democrats to throw resources behind the race, and while they’re down in the polls (3-5 points is the general estimate), some operatives think there’s a chance.
Per The Hill:
“We need to turn our voters out and replicate Nov. 6. We believe we got a really strong GOTV effort,” said Joe Trippi, a Democratic strategist for Espy who also worked on Jones’s campaign.
“I believe the damage she’s done to herself leaves some of her supporters less enthused,” he added, noting that a divided Republican Party and a weak candidate could provide a perfect storm for Democrats yet again, provided they can turn out enough voters.
Sure wouldn’t mind if a woman who is loved by racists, says racist stuff, and grew up in a hugely racist environment no longer represented a state in the Senate, but that’s just me!
Correction, 12:47 p.m.: A previous version of this post listed the source of this story as the Jacksonville Free Press. It is the Jackson Free Press, and I regret this error.