The Ole Miss riot (Black History 365)

Welcome to Black History 365 a series where I explain, educate and explore historical events, unsung black figures in world history and recount the struggles and triumphs of black people worldwide. In this entry I’ll be presenting the story of the riot at Ole Miss in 1962.

The year is 1962 in Oxford Mississippi and James H. Meredith, an African American student, is escorted onto the University of Mississippi campus by U.S. Marshals, which then provoked a deadly riot. Two men were killed before the racial violence was quelled by more than 3,000 federal soldiers. The next day, Meredith successfully enrolled and began to attend classes amid continuing disruption.

Meredith, a native of Mississippi and former Air Force veteran was accepted to the University of Mississippi in 1962, but his admission was revoked when the admissions office found his out about his race. Subsequently, a federal court ordered “ole miss” to admit him, but when tried to register on September 20th 1962, he found the entrance to the office blocked by Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett. Eight days later Barnett was found guilty of civil contempt and was ordered to cease his interference with desegregation at the university or face arrest and a fine of $10,000 a day. 

In 1966 Meredith returned to the public eye when he began a lone civil rights march in an attempt to encourage voter registration by African Americans in the south. During this March Against Fear, Meredith intended to walk from Memphis Tennessee to Jackson Mississippi. However, on June 6th two days into the march, he was sent to a hospital due to a sniper’s bullet.  
Meredith had assistance with continuing the March from Martin Luther King Jr. and Stokley Carmichael. It was during the March Against Fear that Carmicheal the leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, first spoke publicly of “Black Power” his concept of militant African American nationalism. When James Meredith recovered he rejoined the movement the march he started successfully reached Jackson Mississippi.

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