Date of Award

Spring 2019

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

School

Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences

Committee Chair

Dr. Clifton "Skeeter" V. Dixon

Committee Chair School

Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences

Committee Member 2

Dr. David Cochran

Committee Member 2 School

Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences

Committee Member 3

Dr. Andrew Haley

Committee Member 3 School

Humanities

Committee Member 4

Dr. Mark M. Miller

Committee Member 4 School

Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences

Committee Member 5

Dr. C. Andy Reese

Committee Member 5 School

Biological, Environmental, and Earth Sciences

Abstract

Public memory is commonly tied to street names, toponyms, and monuments because they are interacted with daily and are often directly associated with race, class, and regimes of power. Mascots are not thought of in the same manner although they are present as part of everyday life. The childish or sometimes comedic nature of the mascot discounts it from many considerations of its influence, symbolism and history. Nonetheless this research focuses on the term “Rebel” as a secondary school mascot. The term possesses the trappings of race because the American vernacular ties the word to the Confederate States of America and its slave-holding foundation. The issue is that the images, terms, and iconography utilized by many schools with a Rebel mascot is sometimes similar to symbols adopted by many White supremacist groups across the country. The five chapters in this document are united under the topic of Rebel mascots in secondary schools addressing the 1.) distribution of the mascots, 2.) history of selection, and 3.) occurrence of removal. These studies use data from yearbooks, sports databases, newspaper articles, and various websites to construct catalogs of Rebel mascots from the past century. This research finds that Rebel is a term that still retains a connection to the Confederacy and a vernacular link to the American South. There are also significant regional and racial connections related to the term, particularly the Confederate version of the Rebel. Selection of the mascot can be tied to race and the removal or alteration of the Rebel mascot may be connected to racially charged events. The mascot still retains significant currency as a term tied to the Lost Cause and remains a hot-button issue due to the deep connections of schools to their identity through naming. The issue is further compounded by implicit bias and the fear of guilt by association, whereby schools attempt to reinterpret, rename, remove, or distance themselves from the Confederate version of Rebel to avoid controversy.

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