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Posted August 26, 2012

A MISSION FROM GOD:

A Memoir and Challenge for America*

By James Meredith

With William Doyle

“With this lively, compelling book, part memoir and part history lesson, Meredith reminds us how far we’ve come, and urges us to go further,” Publisher’s Weekly

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - To call James Meredith an enigma is an understatement. Fifty years ago, in the fall of 1962, escorted by U. S. marshals and National Guardsmen, he became the first black (a term he prefers to African-American) to attend classes at the University of Mississippi as angry mobs tried to block Meredith’s enrollment and clashed with federal troops. Integrating ‘Ole Miss,’ a bastion of southern tradition, was a major victory for Meredith and the civil rights movement and was also a watershed moment that led to countless African-Americans achieving an education and bettering their lives. And in 1966, Meredith organized the March Against Fear, which helped to alter voter registration in the south—and also made him the target of a sniper.

 

But despite being an agent of change in these iconic and historical events, Meredith remains a controversial figure. While he waged a ‘war on white supremacy,’ he considers the Civil Rights Movement to be flawed and argues the movement perpetuated second-class citizenship for blacks. He is also a critic of many social institutions, including welfare, which he believes keep black American dependent upon the system. And in two of his bolder gestures, which drew the ire of many across both sides of the political spectrum, Meredith not only worked in Washington as a domestic policy advisor for Senator Jesse Helms—who filibustered a national holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr.—but also endorsed Louisiana gubernatorial candidate David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

Now, in A MISSION FROM GOD: A Memoir and Challenge for America (Atria Books; on-sale date: August 7, 2012; ISBN: 978-1-4516-7472-9; $25.00), written with William Doyle, Meredith explains the reasoning behind many of his political positions and reveals why he has dedicated his life to human rights and education for all. Part memoir, part manifesto, Meredith relives many watershed moments in history as well his encounters with historical luminaries such as Robert F. Kennedy, Thurgood Marshall, Mary McCloud Bethune and Medgar Evers. He also challenges America to address the most critical social issue of our time: how to educate and uplift the millions of Americans, both black and white, who remain locked in the chains of poverty by improving our public education system.

“At the root of many of our problems as a nation is the fact that our public education system is an unmitigated disaster for many of our poor white, Latino, Native American and black youths,” Meredith notes. “By the time they reach twelfth grade, black students are four years behind their white peers in English, math and science and score two hundred points lower on the SAT than white students. These trends are a national disgrace but there are countless ways we can all help. You can walk into our local public schools and offer to read to children. You can educate yourself by studying a cross-section of education reform initiatives, including promising ideas like improving parental education. I recently asked one hundred of the greatest minds in America to give their best ideas for how we and our fellow American citizens can improve our public schools. There are ideas many of them agree on such as the benefits of mentoring and getting involved in PTA efforts and others they disagree on, sometimes vociferously, such as the effectiveness of charter schools and vouchers. But there is one thing I am sure of: When you decide to commit to help children, especially those schools with disadvantaged students, I believe you will be carrying out our great mission from God, and you will help make America a place there the good life promised by our Creator can be enjoyed by all.”

            ***

Road Sign to Travelers: James Meredith published his critically acclaimed book, Three Years in Mississippi, in 1966. He earned a law degree at Columbia University Law School and became an entrepreneur, lecturer and activist. Today, he is a tree farmer and grandfather in Jackson, Mississippi and helps rear his grandchildren.

 

William Doyle is an award-winning writer based in New York and author of Inside the Oval Office: the White House Tapes from FDR to Clinton, An American Insurrection: James Meredith and the Battle of Oxford, Mississippi, 1962 and A Soldier’s Dream: Captain Travis Patriquin and the Awakening of Iraq.

 *"A Mission from God" by James Meredith is now available at Square Books, 160 Courthouse Square, in Oxford, Mississippi, at at other retail outlets.

 

 

 

 

 

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