Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde Smith, who is facing a special election runoff in Mississippi Tuesday, hasn’t exactly been open about her high school experience. And today the Jackson Free Press* reveals why that might be, noting that the senator attended one of the “segregation academies” that were set up by white parents eager to avoid integration laws. Hyde-Smith, who was appointed to replace long-time Sen. Thad Cochran this past spring, is facing off aganist Democratic former congressman Mike Espy, who is seeking to become Mississippi’s first black senator since Reconstruction.
The paper got a hold of the 1975 yearbook of the Lawrence County Academy and identified “Cindy Hyde” posing with other cheerleaders next to the school’s mascot of a Confederate general holding up a large Confederate flag. Hyde-Smith didn’t just go to a school that seemed expressly designed to avoid integration, she also sent her daughter to one of them.
Brookhaven Academy, the school from which Hyde-Smith’s daughter graduated in 2017, is almost all white. In the 2015-2016 academic year, for example, the school had 386 white students, compared to five Asian students and one black student. Brookhaven is 55 percent black.
The senator’s education “adds historic context to comments she made in recent weeks about a ‘public hanging’ that drew condemnations from across the political spectrum,” notes the Jackson Free Press. The senator has been under fire for saying she would sit with a supporter in the front row of a “public hanging.” She defended the remarks as a meaningless expression, others were quick to say it alluded to a lynching. Several corporations are not buying her explanation and have requested refunds of their donations to the candidate.
The Free-Press piece quotes people explainign that there is no way Hyde-Smith couldn’t have known why the “segregation academies” were set up. “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,” Former Mississippi Democratic Party Chairman Rickey Cole said. Earlier in the week, the Washington Post took a look at how Hyde-Smith has often embraced “a pride in the Confederacy and its aftermath.”
Correction on Nov. 25, 2018: This piece initially mistakenly referred to the newspaper that reported the story as the Jacksonville Free Press. It’s the Jackson Free Press.