Sandra Sojourner was driving her daughter, Melanie, to school early one morning in mid-1970s Mississippi when the young white child saw something alarming at a major intersection in Adams County: a giant wooden cross engulfed in flames. The girl, who attended a local Southern Baptist church and was about 8 or 9 years old at the time, did not know what it meant, but she immediately recoiled, thinking it was “an attack on Jesus.”
“Melanie, it’s just bad people doing bad things,” her mother told her, continuing the drive to Adams County Christian School in Natchez—an all-white private academy where Confederate imagery was then part of its students’ everyday tapestry.
Sojourner, now age 51 and the Republican candidate to reclaim the Mississippi Senate seat she lost in the 2015 election, told the Jackson Free Press on Oct. 24 that she did not know as a young girl that the school she attended had been organized as a segregation academy at a time when white parents pulled their children out of public schools in response to court-ordered integration.
“And it wasn’t until later that I learned that the ‘bad people doing bad things’ were white people being ugly to black people,” she said. “It wasn’t until much later that I realized that those ‘bad people doing bad things’ used the same flag my school used.”
Rebels and Saints
Sojourner’s Democratic opponent in the Mississippi Senate District 37 race, Will Godfrey, is also white and attended a private school in Adams County, he told the Jackson Free Press on Oct. 22. He graduated from Trinity Episcopal Day School in 2005—19 years after Sojourner—and said there were no Confederate flags at that school. Adams Christian today uses the Rebels as a mascot, while the mascot at Trinity Episcopal Day School, which shut down in 2018, was the Saints.