1962 September 20

James Meredith Denied Registration at University of Mississippi


James Meredith, the first African-American to attend the University of Mississippi, was denied registration on this day, despite the fact that a week earlier a U.S. District Court had ordered the university to enroll him. When he attempted to enroll at the university, on October 1, 1962, mobs of whites assembled and a riot erupted. Attorney General Robert Kennedy sent 500 U.S. Marshals to the campus to preserve order, and they were supported by several different units of federal troops. Two people were killed in the riot, one of them a French journalist, and 160 U. S. Marshals were injured. Meredith finally enrolled at the university.

As a student at the University, Meredith experienced continued harassment and left after two semesters. He completed his undergraduate education in Nigeria, and then enrolled at Columbia University Law School and graduated in 1968.

On June 6, 1966, Meredith initiated a March Against Fear in Mississippi, but was shot and wounded on the first day. Other civil rights leaders continued the march. That march was the occasion, on June 16, 1966, when civil rights leader Stokely Carmichael first used the slogan “Black Power.”

Read: Frank Lambert, The Battle of Ole Miss: Civil Rights v. States’ Rights (2010)

Read his personal account: James Meredith, Three Years in Mississippi (1966)

Watch newsreel footage of the riot over Meredith’s enrollment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVqvCuOwpZU

Listen to President Kennedy’s White House telephone conversations during the University of Mississippi crisis (scroll down to find the appropriate dates): http://millercenter.org/presidentialrecordings/kennedy

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