6 Interesting Facts About Civil Rights Activist James Meredith
The Integration of the University of Mississippi
Upon graduating high school, James Meredith spent nine years in the Army Air Force. He enrolled in Jackson State College, an all Black school in Mississippi. In 1961, he applied to the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss, an all white university). Meredith was admitted, but his admission was put on hold once Ole Miss learned that he was a Black man. He filed a suit against university and the case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court after the district court ruled against him. According to Biography.com, Meredith arrived to register for classes on September 20, 1962 but the entrance was blocked, forcing President John F. Kennedy to the National Guard. He finally enrolled on October 1, 1962.
After graduating from Ole Miss in 1963 with a political science degree, Meredith continued his education. He received his masters in economics from University of Ibadan in Nigeria then a law degree from Columbia University.
March Against Fear
In an effort to encourage African-Americans to vote and to dispel fears of life in Mississippi, Meredith chose to march, solely, from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi in June 1966. According to His Dream, Our Stories, Meredith was shot in Mississippi on the second day of his 220-mile march. Since Meredith was injured and unable to continue his march, civil rights leaders continued the march to Jackson. Meredith was able to join near the end.
According to Biography.com, Meredith became active in the Republican Party in the 1960s. He ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1967. In 1972, he ran for a seat in the Senate but lost to the Democratic incumbent James Eastland. He ultimately served as a domestic adviser to the U.S. senator, Jesse Helms.
A statue of Meredith was introduced in 2006 on Ole Miss’ campus. The Christian Science Monitor stated that at the ceremony, Meredith wasn’t given the opportunity to speak. He ended up handing out copies of his speech to the attendees. “I guess they figured they’d better not try to handcuff me, so I got away with [handing the speech out],” he wrote in his 2012 autobiography.
Meredith wrote several books including his first book in 1966, Three Years in Mississippi, about his experiences as the first Black student to enter the University of Mississippi. He penned a children’s book in 2010 titled, Will Wadsworth’s Train to Nowhere. His latest book was published in 2012,
A Mission from God: A Memoir and Challenge for America, which is part memoir and part manifesto.