The FBI is helping investigate the tying of a noose around the neck of a University of Mississippi statue of James Meredith. In 1962, Meredith became the first black student to enroll in the then all-white southern college.
University police found the noose and a pre-2003 Georgia state flag with the Confederate "stars and bars" on Feb. 16, according to campus police Chief Calvin Sellers.
Two men were seen near the statue early Sunday and investigators were looking at surveillance footage.
"It's a racial hate crime," Mississippi NAACP president Derrick Johnson said after a news conference at the state Capitol. "At what level do they get prosecuted? I don't know. But as long as we tolerate hate, we will continue to revisit history and the past of this state, and at some point we must move forward."
University chancellor Dan Jones condemned the action, saying it was contrary to the beliefs and values of the school community.
Meanwhile, university police asked for help from the FBI, according to Deborah R. Madden, a spokeswoman for the FBI office in Jackson, Miss.
The Ole Miss Alumni Association is offering at $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.
When Meredith tried to enter Ole Miss in fall 1962, Mississippi's governor tried to stop him, which was followed by rioting on the Oxford campus.
U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy then sent 500 U.S. Marshals to take control and a couple weeks later, Meredith was allowed into the school and he eventually graduated with with a degree in political science.
Assistant to the Chancellor for Multicultural Affairs Don Cole reiterated the creed that the university stands by.
"This is particularly painful because the James Meredith statue has become a gathering place for students to discuss many things, including the tenets of our creed, which calls for dignity and respect for all people," he said.