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Meredith Enrollment Paved Way for Integration at Ole Miss

By Anna Belson and Raegan Cohn

HottyToddy Intern

Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

James Meredith is famously known for integrating the University of Mississippi in 1962. This year celebrates the 61st anniversary of Meredith’s enrollment. 

Meredith is from Kosciusko, Miss., and graduated from Gibbs High School. He gave back to his country by serving in the U.S. Air Force from 1951 to 1960. After serving, he attended Jackson State University for one year, from 1960 to 1961. In 1961, he officially applied to the University of Mississippi.

Initially, the University of Mississippi rejected Meredith’s admission. As a result, he filed a lawsuit based on race with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense Fund. On September 10, 1962, the Supreme Court sided with Meredith and demanded that the University accept him. 

Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett tried to prevent Meredith’s admission, but failed. During Meredith’s first day on campus, a riot broke out. Even though there were U.S. Marshals throughout the campus to protect him, the riot still resulted in the tragic death of two students. President John F. Kennedy sent the National Guard to the University to put the riot to bed.

During his time at the University, his fellow white classmates ridiculed him. The people beside his room would often bang on the walls constantly, call him racial slurs, and harass him. He never even attended an Ole Miss game day due to these threats. Rosa Parks, Langston Hughes, and other African-American activists supported Meredith. 

Though his college experience was challenging, he graduated on August 18, 1963, with a Bachelor’s degree in political science. Meredith then went on to earn a law degree at Columbia University in 1968. 

Not only was Meredith the first Black student to attend Ole Miss, but he is also well known for leading the “March Against Fear” in 1966 from Memphis to Jackson. This march was held in order to highlight racial oppression in Mississippi. Unfortunately, Meredith was shot on the second day of the march, but Martin Luther King Jr. stepped in to finish the march in his honor. 

Meredith is also the author of the book, “Three Years in Mississippi,” where he delves deeper into his experiences while at Ole Miss. It not only illustrates his fight for admission, but it also brings awareness to the racial struggles in the South. 

“The University of Mississippi is the most significant place to me in the world.” – James Meredith. Merediths’ legacy and fight for equality will continue to live on at Ole Miss and inspire students everywhere.


Adam Brown
Adam Brown
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