Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Civil Rights Rebel With a Twist

In the fall of 1962, James Meredith enrolled as a student at the University of Mississippi, affectionately known as Ole Miss. This was not an ordinary college enrollment. He was the first African-American student to attempt admission. Prior to his enrollment, he was rejected twice. Believing his denial was based on race, he fought the case in court, was turned down, and appealed to a higher court, which charged the university with discrimination.

Finally admitted, when he tried to attend classes, in September, riots erupted, and more than 30,000 federal troops and Mississippi National Guards were brought in. More mayhem resulted, with 68 marshals shot and 2 bystanders killed. Amid the turmoil, Meredith started classes in October. Four years later, in 1996, he graduated. Impassioned by his experiences as a student, he went on to lead “The March Against Fear,” from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson,
Mississippi, protesting racism, violence, and voter registration discrimination against African-Americans. Early in the march, he was shot and hospitalized, and Martin Luther King, Jr. continued on in his behalf. Meredith after his hospital discharge joined the march on its final day as it neared Jackson.

Later on, his life took a turn in another direction, and he criticized liberals, registered as a Republican, and ran for Congress. He held a job as a stockbroker, and nearing retirement, returned to a quiet life in Mississippi running an auto shopt. In contrast to his early participation in the civil rights movement, today Meredith rebuffs the movement.

Helpful resources for information:

Images from: John F. Kennedy Library 1-866-JFK-1960 last updated August 2002

Post your comments. What is your response to learning of Meredith's student days? How do you feel about him integrating one of the South's most venerable institutions? Do you think he was a rebel? Was he a justice seeker?


Teresa said...

I still find it hard to believe that that happened not even 100 years ago...this kind of thing just doesn't seem real to me....I know it happened but I just can't imagine it. I hope we can get to a point where we don't have to worry about racism or even sexism but that would be a utopia

Hannah said...

James Meredith was a courageous man and an inspirtation for standing up for what he believed in which was the end of racial discrimination.

Ashlee said...

I find it also very upsetting that these events were so recent. I do believe that one of the dates is wrong though. It states that four years later when he graduated was 1996. I believe it should be 1966 seeing he enrolled in 1962. I do beleiev that this man was a justice seeker. As Mrs. Pell stated in the film, hatred is taught. I think this is a major point.

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