In 1949, soon after arriving in Oxford, Mississippi, as the school's first Art Department chairman, Stuart Purser was driving through the nearby countryside when he spied some interesting sculptures on the front porch of a small farmhouse near Ecru. When Purser stopped to speak with the African-American artist, his longtime friendship with M.B. Mayfield began.
That fall, Purser offered Mayfield a job as custodian for the Art Department and caretaker for the newly opened student art gallery. This was a time when the University of Mississippi was completely segregated. What few outside the Art Department knew was that Purser also gave Mayfield one-on-one instruction and arranged for classroom doors to be left open so Mayfield could listen to lectures while sitting in the nearby broom closet. Later, Purser took Mayfield on his lecture trips, passing Mayfield off as an assistant who carted equipment and set up the projector.
The Education of Mr. Mayfield tells the story of how M.B. Mayfield overcame many of the obstacles placed in his way due to racism, but it also tells of the quiet acts of courage displayed by some white Southerners who found ways to defy the injustices of the time and place.
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(Even Oxford resident William Faulkner contributes to the cause, offering money for Mayfield's art supplies.) Perhaps most remarkable is the endurance of Mayfield's career through the enormous social upheaval of desegregation: Ole Miss's first black student, admitted in 1962, drew an angry mob ar...| Read Full Review of The Education of Mr. Mayfield...