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Posted June 27, 2012

Travelers, to Jaunette Mays lane

JAMES MEREDITH : 50 Years  and Going Strong

 By Jaunette Mays, Columnist/Correspondent

for The Mid-South Tribune and the

Black Information Highway

On this year that marks the fiftieth anniversary of the well known Civil Rights activist, James Meredith. I want to introduce to some and present the life and history that changed my way of thinking on my life’s’ journey. As an African American growing up, Meredith knew what he wanted and there was no one or nothing that could stop it. This, my friend was and is called determination. This he held in great capacity.

            Meredith was born June 25, 1933, Kosciusko, Mississippi and is known as the first African American to attend the University of Mississippi also known as “Ole Miss.” Though this was a great struggle, he managed to make his dream a reality. Meredith served in the Air Force from 1951 to 1960, which included his duty in Japan. The turning point in his life as well as his career came in the fall of 1962 when he successfully became the first black student at the University of Mississippi. This was a great moment in the civil rights movement which caused many riots on the Oxford campus and left two dead. You can find the significance of the opposition to the admittance of a black student to an all white college in the South.  The U.S. Supreme Court language in Brown vs. Board of Education (II) 1955.

            Meredith found ways to channel his energy from being a Civil Rights activist to becoming a great author. He has written three great books that involve his hardships with segregation and his rights as man. In his first publication, Three Years in Mississippi, Meredith recounted his experiences as the first black student to attend an all white institute. Critics in  a Newsweek magazine book review wrote: “Seldom is a piece of violent history so dispassionately dissected by one of its participants as it has been by Meredith in his three-years-later study of this breakthrough at the University of Mississippi.”

            Thereafter, he managed to organize “Walk Against Fear,” a march from Memphis, TN to Jackson, Mississippi, in a bold selfless repudiation of the physical violence faced by African Americans. Exercising his right to vote caused Meredith to again fight for his life. In the midst of the walk, Meredith was shot. As his health strengthened, he again joined the walk, but this time he was accompanied by the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other great civil rights leaders of the day.

            Meredith went on to receive an LL.B from Columbia University. He ran for a congressional seat in 1972. Meredith’s most recent publication is a monumental piece: Mississippi: A Volume of Eleven Books was published in 1995. On March 21, 1997, James Meredith presented his papers to the University of Mississippi where they are maintained by Special Collections branch of the J.D. Williams Library.




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