James Meredith

OLE MISS INTEGRATOR AND MARCH AGAINST FEAR CREATOR

EARLY LIFE

Growing up in Kosciusko, Mississippi, James has always been around segregation and discrimination. After attending local segregated schools and graduating from high school, Meredith enlisted in the Air Force. He served from 1951 to 1960. He attended Jackson State University for two years, then applied to the University of Mississippi which, under the state's legally imposed racial segregation, had traditionally accepted only white students.

INTEGRATING OLE MISS

UNIVERSITY OF MISSISSIPPI

Wanting to attend the University of Mississippi, Meredith wrote that he wanted admission for his country, race, family, and himself. Meredith said, "Nobody handpicked me...I believed, and believe now, that I have a Divine Responsibility...I am familiar with the probable difficulties involved in such a move as I am undertaking and I am fully prepared to pursue it all the way to a degree from the University of Mississippi." He was denied twice.


On May 31, 1961, Meredith with backing of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed suit in the U.S. District Court, stating that the university had rejected Meredith only because of the color of his skin, as he had a highly successful record. The case went through many hearings and finally to the Supreme Court, which ruled that Meredith had the right to be admitted to the state school.


Although he was allowed admission, the governor of Mississippi didn't allow him to enter the school. With the help of the Kennedy Administration, he was walked on campus supported by some U.S. Marshall. A riot opened, killing two people. Later on, Meredith graduated from the college in political science to move on to do bigger and better things within the Civil Rights and the black community.

MARCH AGAINST FEAR

After becoming a great leader in the Civil Rights movement, Meredith wanted to further his activism by creating a March Against Fear. He, and his followers, were planning on marching from Memphis, TN to Jackson, MI beginning on June 6th, 1966. This went along with his public effort to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He hoped to help blacks overcome fear of violence at the polls. During the march, 4,000 black Mississippians registered to vote.


During this march, he was shot by Aubrey James Norvell, a extreme racist. Meredith recovered from the shooting, later to rejoin the march that had been taken over by Martin Luther King Jr, and Stokely Carmichael. The influence behind this march is what lead to Stokely Carmichael creating his slogan, and a slogan for the black community, Black Power.