Civil Rights

James Meredith

James Meredith is an African American civil rights activist who is best known for his role in integrating the University of Mississippi in 1962. Born on June 25, 1933, in Kosciusko, Mississippi, Meredith grew up in a segregated society and faced numerous obstacles in his quest for education and equality.

Meredith served in the United States Air Force from 1951 to 1960, during which time he became increasingly aware of the injustices faced by African Americans. He decided to pursue higher education and applied to the University of Mississippi in 1961, despite knowing that the school did not admit African American students.

Meredith’s application was initially rejected, but he continued to fight for his right to attend the university. With the support of civil rights leaders like Medgar Evers and NAACP lawyer Thurgood Marshall, Meredith filed a lawsuit against the university. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor, ordering the university to admit him.

James Meredith (center) with federal marshals, 1962.

On October 1, 1962, Meredith arrived at the University of Mississippi to enroll, accompanied by federal marshals who were there to protect him from violent opposition by white supremacists. The ensuing riots resulted in two deaths and numerous injuries, but Meredith persisted and was finally able to register for classes on October 3.

Meredith’s enrollment at the University of Mississippi was a landmark moment in the civil rights movement, and it helped pave the way for greater equality for African Americans in education and other areas. However, Meredith faced continued harassment and violence during his time at the university, including a shooting that left him hospitalized for several weeks.

James Meredith, right, speaking with Dr. Martin Luther King after they met on U.S. 51 near Tougaloo, Miss. Dr. King had led a column of civil rights marchers from Tougaloo College to greet Meredith’s marchers walking in from Canton. June 25, 1966

After graduating from the University of Mississippi in 1963, Meredith went on to become a civil rights activist, speaking out against racial discrimination and working to register African American voters in Mississippi. He also wrote several books, including “Three Years in Mississippi” and “A Mission from God.”

Meredith was shot while on a solo march against fear from Memphis, Tennessee, to Jackson, Mississippi, in 1966, but he survived and continued to work for civil rights throughout his life. Today, James Meredith is remembered as a trailblazer and a symbol of the courage and perseverance that were necessary to overcome the systemic racism of the Jim Crow era.

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