In conjunction with a book launch for the joint publication of RIOT: Witness to Anger and Change, publishers have released a number of exclusive photos centered around the 1962 riot at the University of Mississippi concerning the admission of the school’s first black student, James Meredith.
The book signing will take place at 5 p.m. Friday at Off Square Books in Oxford.
RIOT is a photo album featuring the photography of Edwin E. Meek, who was a young staff photographer for University Public Relations when Meredith was admitted to the University of Mississippi in the 1960s.
On Sept. 30, 1962, when a student demonstration in the Circle protesting the admission of Meredith turned violent, Meek, age 22, was first at the scene. He stayed up all night and took more than 500 photos including exclusive shots of Meredith in the classroom. Meek is the only photographer with a full body of work before, during and after the 1962 riot at the University of Mississippi.
“I heard the hiss of a bottle sailing over my head and saw it strike a marshal’s helmet. When I turned to see who had thrown the bottle, I did not recognize a single face. The crowd had become a mob of strangers. Suddenly a man snatched a reporter’s camera and smashed it on the ground. Photographers began warning each other, ‘Shoot and run!’ When people noticed me taking pictures, someone said, ‘It’s okay. He’s from Ole Miss!’ ” (Edwin E, Meek, Foreword)
Meek helped set up a press room in the Lyceum and went back and forth to the “Circle” taking photographs. The rioting, which took the lives of French journalist Paul Guihard and bystander Ray Gunter, lasted until dawn when it was suppressed by Federal Marshals, the Mississippi National Guard and units of the U.S. Army and 101st Airborne. James Meredith registered for classes that day, becoming the first black student at Ole Miss. He graduated from Ole Miss in 1963.
RIOT contains 120 photos, many previously unpublished. The book features a recollections chapter in which Meek and Curtis Wilkie, fellow journalism students at the University of Mississippi, recall events from different perspectives. While Meek was in the middle of the action taking pictures, diving for cover, changing film in a cloud of tear gas, Wilkie, also then 22, braved the tear gas to witness the mindless destruction.
Proceeds from sales will benefit the Meek School of Journalism’s Student Entrepreneurship Fund which will enable students and faculty to publish their work. In 2014, Ed Meek donated his photo collection to the University of Mississippi J.D. Williams Library.
We have a very long way yet to travel in Mississippi,
and at the University of Mississippi there is much wrong
that needs to be made right,
but we have come light years together.
− James Meredith