Beloved University of Mississippi professor who called out 'racist donors' has been fired
Dr. Garrett Felber/Image via University of Mississippi

Up until last week, Dr. Garrett Felber was on track to become a tenured history professor at the University of Mississippi. Dr. Felber studies race and incarceration in the U.S. and is a dedicated advocate for people who are imprisoned. He's also a published author, having written "Those Who Know Don't Say: The Nation of Islam, the Black Freedom Movement and the Carceral State" and co-written "The Portable Malcolm X Reader" with Pulitzer Prize-winning Malcolm X biographer Manning Marable.

In August, Felber was awarded a one-year fellowship at Harvard University's Hutchins Center for African and African American Research and is working there during the 2020-2021 school year. Dr. Noell Wilson, University of Mississippi's history department chair, praised Felber for the award at the time.

"Garrett is an indefatigable researcher and community builder whose knowledge of the carceral state stems not merely from archival digging, but also from his volunteer engagement with prisons as a teacher," Wilson said. "We are thrilled with this award because it both recognizes his national profile in the field of African American history and provides critical space for him to advance two pioneering interpretive projects."

Four months later, Wilson notified Felber of his termination.


In a letter dated December 10, the department chair informed him that his employment with the university would be terminated as of December 31, 2021. Though she cited communication issues between her and Felber in her letter, some believe his termination has more to do with his speaking out about the university kowtowing to racist donors.

Felber has been involved with a project called "Study and Struggle," which he describes as a political education project on mass incarceration and immigrant detention. Wilson rejected a grant for the project in October, saying it was a political instead of historical project and might jeopardize department funding.

"The real issue is that (UM) prioritizes racist donors over all else," Felber tweeted. "So it's not some mythic politics v. history binary, but that this antiracist program threatens racist donor money. And racism is the brand. It's in the name."

A statement from the university's communications office said that the grant refusal "was made after several considerations and in consultation with the relevant campus offices. Dr. Felber did not follow the appropriate process for seeking external funding, a process for which he has been briefed individually by representatives of several administrative offices across campus. Dr. Felber submitted his proposal to a private charitable foundation without the knowledge of his department chair or other officials."

"If he had followed UM's process of engaging with external funders," the statement continued, "his department chair would have had the opportunity to advise him on how best to align his proposal with the Department of History's research, teaching and service mission as articulated in its mission statement. As a public research institution, the university is committed to supporting the work of all faculty, being good stewards of both public and private grants and ensuring that all work on behalf of UM aligns with the mission of our collective schools and units."

However, at a time when anti-racism research, education, and academic projects are under attack—not just by society but by the federal government—it's hard to separate what might be legitimate personnel issues and what might be pressure from funding soruces.

Another UM professor told the Mississippi Free Press: "Feel free to note the increasing levels of paranoia on campus." Professors from around the country have come to Felber's defense, with some even having predicted that his anti-racist academic work would lead to Felber being ousted.





While some scold academia for being intolerant of views that don't align with "liberal" thought, the opposite can be just as true, especially where money is involved. While the University of Mississippi has made some strides in coming to terms with its racist history, the roots of racism run deep.

"I'm just so deeply dismayed by the willingness of faculty and administrators at all levels of the university who acquiesce to the will of these powerful racist, donors," Felber told the Mississippi Free Press in October. "Individually, these people will continue to tell me they respect the work, and appreciate it, and support it, and will until the push from above comes, and then they willfully misrepresent and do things like what my chair did."

"It's all very calculated and it feels—it's not just structurally racist, it's also personally betraying to say that you support these things, then when it actually matters they always acquiesce. It just has a profound effect on all of us doing the work to actually continue to do the stuff that matters and not get mired in calling the university out for its lies continually. The people that that harms the most are the people who benefit from these projects. People who are already excluded from the university through structural racism."

When asked what people can do to support him, Felber has encouraged people to donate to a campaign to buy toiletries for people who are incarcerated in Mississippi.

That's called putting your money where your mouth is. The world—academic and otherwise—could use a whole lot more of that kind of integrity.

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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