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Journalism Professor Releases Book Detailing 1962 UM Integration

A University of Mississippi journalism professor explores the careers of American journalists in her new nonfiction book “We Believed We Were Immortal: Twelve Reporters Who Covered the 1962 Integration Crisis at Ole Miss.”
Kathleen Wickham’s book, published by Yoknapatawpha Press, details how each journalist covered a different part of the integration crisis, from Gov. Ross Barnett’s opposition to James Meredith’s enrollment to the reaction of African-Americans in Oxford. Wickham details the challenges these journalists faced, including beatings, snipers and opposition from the governor.
She also examines the unsolved murder of French reporter Paul Guihard, the only journalist killed during the civil rights movement. The story of Guihard, who was shot in the back during the campus riots in 1962, struck Wickham as personal.
“I had worked as a reporter for 10 years in my native New Jersey,” Wickham said. “I wrote stories that sent some crooked politicians to jail. I wrote stories about organized crime. I wrote a lot of stories that public officials did not like. But I never felt like my personal safety was compromised.
“If Guihard had been killed in Birmingham or in Selma, I’m not sure it would have been so personal to me, but it happened on a path that I walked almost daily to go to class, and so it became personal.”
The longer Wickham lived in Mississippi, the more interested she became in the stories of these reporters and their commitment, especially Guihard.
For the last five years, Wickham has researched the press’s role in major events, such as integration.
“These reporters were driven to seek the truth and inform the public about what was going on in Oxford in 1962,” she said.
The preface was written by Bob Schieffer of CBS News, who covered the campus riots as a reporter for Texas radio station KXOL.
Wickham will be available to sign copies of the book at 5 p.m. Tuesday (Sept. 12) at Off Square Books in Oxford. She will also sign books at Novel bookstore in Memphis at 6 p.m. Sept. 15 and at Lemuria Books in Jackson at 5 p.m. Sept. 21.


By Christina Steube
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