What He Did To Make A Difference

James Meredith was an integral member of the civil rights movement.  In 1961, he filled out his application to enroll in the University of Mississippi. In the past, African Americans who tried to gain admittance were denied.  Some applicants were jailed, just because they attempted to get an education. The school denied Meredith's application 3 times.  Unlike other students who had been denied, Meredith challenged the school to defend its practices in court. The court dismissed his complaint and ruled that he was not denied admission because of his race.  On June 25, 1962,  the court ruled that from the moment the school discovered Meredith was African American it engaged in a "carefully calculated campaign of delay, harassment , and masterly inactivity. " The court ordered the school to enroll Meredith in the autumn session. 

                The legislator was called into a special midnight session to enact a law specifically aimed at preventing Meredith from enrolling.  Governor Ross Barnet issued a proclamation that the state was sovereign and directed the university to defy the court order. He even had himself appointed university registrar and personally refused Meredith's admission. On September 30, 1962, president John F. Kennedy  ordered the university to admit Meredith and deployed 123 deputy federal marshals, 316 border policemen and 97 federal prison guards on or near the campus to protect Meredith.  When Meredith arrived on campus to register, federal forces were attacked by two thousand rioters who were armed with guns, bricks, bottles, and Molotov cocktails. The violence continued until President Kennedy sent thirty thousand federal troops to secure the campus. In the end two people died, thirty marshals were shot, and forty-eight American soldiers were injured. This incident was eventually called the biggest domestic military crisis of the twentieth century. Yet Meredith had integrated perhaps the most racist institution in the nation and graduated with a political science degree the following year. 

Meredith desegregated Ole Miss in 1962.  His entrance into the formerly all-white institution sparked campus riots that left two people dead.  The most important thing that came out of his heroic stand was the way it inspired other black Mississippians to stand up to the white power structure in spite of fear.  Meredith's mom lost her job because of his activity, but he was undeterred.

In June 1966, Meredith sponsored a March against Fear from Memphis to Jackson.  He was shot by a white sniper while walking the route and could not continue the march.  Martin Luther King, Jr., Stokely Carmichael and several other influential civil rights leaders came to Mississippi and completed the march for him. 

 Meredith's brave stance along with the Freedom Rides of 1961 laid the foundation for the later civil rights activity in Mississippi. He inspired other blacks to stand for their freedom. He gave people hope, and taught them how not to be stepped upon by the white people of Mississippi. 

Mr. Meredith did a lot to help the Civil Rights Movement, inspiring blacks to go to school all over the country, desegregating many colleges along the way. He is still remembered today. 

  James Meredith was non-conventional for his time. Black kids were denied admission to schools with better supplies, let alone private schools and did not challenge it because they were scared that they were going to be thrown into prison, or worse, killed.

Mr. Meredith did a lot to help the Civil Rights Movement, inspiring blacks to go to school all over the country and desegregating many colleges along the way. He is still remembered today. 


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