Julian: This week marks the anniversary of a major milestone in the civil rights movement. Half a century ago, one African-American college student confronted racism head on and the impact of his courage is still being celebrated today.
Students gathered in tribute on the campus where James Meredith made history.
Student: I know I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him.
Student: I’m proud to attend this school.
Julian: Fifty years ago, Meredith was the first African-American student to attend the University of Mississippi, a segregated college in the heart of the south. His struggle became a flash point in the nation’s civil rights movement.
Mississippi’s Governor Ross Barnett repeatedly blocked Meredith from enrolling. And angry mobs rioted in the streets.
But on October, 1st 1962, after pressure from President Kennedy and a ruling by the Supreme Court, Meredith was finally allowed to attend classes at Ole Miss.
James: The fight was about citizenship and who in America was going to enjoy all of the rights and privileges of citizenship.
Julian: Following Meredith’s enrollment, Mississippi’s colleges, universities and public schools were eventually desegregated. Meredith graduated from Ole Miss and went to law school, leaving behind a changed campus.
Daniel Jones: Where injustice identified us in the past, we want to be sure that opportunity and justice identify this university in the future.
Julian: Today, one out of every four students at the University of Mississippi is a minority.
Student: It’s nothing better than telling someone, “Hey, I go to the University of Mississippi.” And you being an African-American saying that, and doing a great job while you’re at the university. There is nothing more proud and boastful to say.
Julian: This year, Ole Miss elected its first African-American associated student body president and crowned its first African-American homecoming queen.
- Who is James Meredith?
- Why does Meredith call himself a “reluctant hero?”
- What impact has Meredith’s enrollment at Ole Miss had on the university?