University of Miss. to observe James Meredith’s 60th desegregation anniversary for 11 months

In 1962, Meredith became the first Black student to enroll in the then all-white southern college

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Famed civil rights activist James Meredith desegregated the University of Mississippi in the early 1960s and now the school will honor him with several events set to kick off in September, the Clarion-Ledger reports.

In 1962, Meredith became the first Black student to enroll in the then all-white college. As a statement on the university’s website notes, the state made several attempts to prevent him from attending the school. The university’s denial of his admission prompted a legal battle that resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of Meredith on Sept. 10, 1962.

University of Mississippi
In the 1960s, the University of Mississippi made several attempts to keep James Meredith from attending. (Credit: AdobeStock)

Despite the high court’s ruling, when Meredith tried to enroll about three weeks later, on Sept 30, 1962, a riot broke out on campus. 

U.S. marshals had been stationed at the university to protect Meredith and a white mob began assaulting the marshals with bricks and bullets. Per the university’s website statement, “Two bystanders died in the confrontation, 206 marshals and soldiers were wounded, and 200 individuals were arrested.”

As reported by the Clarion-Ledger, 30,000 federal troops were deployed to “quell the mob.” Meredith was allowed to register on Oct. 1, 1962. He once described himself as “the most segregated Negro in America” because he was ostracized by most students and required the marshals’ 24-hour protection, per the school’s news release. 

This year marks 60 years since Meredith’s push to desegregate the Univerity of Mississippi. The school intends to celebrate the milestone for 11 months via festivities dubbed “The Mission Continues: Building Upon the Legacy.” The anniversary event will run from September through July of next year.

“The courageous actions by James Meredith in 1962 stand among the most profoundly meaningful events in our university’s history, and it is truly an honor to work with the Merediths, the planning committee, and other campus stakeholders in commemorating the 60th anniversary,” said Shawnboda Mead, vice chancellor for diversity and community engagement at the university, in a statement, per the Clarion-Ledger.

“I’m particularly grateful for the energy and commitment of the numerous members of the planning committee who have worked so diligently to elevate this historic time for our campus and community. We want everyone to be a part of this significant time for our university,” Mead added. 

The Clarion-Ledger listed the events below that are planned for Meredith’s 60th desegregation anniversary:

Schedule of Events

  • Sept. 12 – October 13, 2022: Civil Rights in Oxford Town: The Integration of Education tours 
  • Sept. 26-30: Week of Service, a childhood literacy project centering on the four pillars of courage, opportunity, knowledge, and perseverance 
  • Sept. 27: “Meredith and the Media: The Legacy of a Riot,” the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics hosts a panel of journalists to discuss how media coverage of Meredith’s enrollment and the ensuing riot has shaped perceptions of the university
  • Sept. 28: “The Mission Continues: Building Upon the Legacy,” signature event honoring Meredith and his contributions to the university 
  • Sept. 30: “Legacy Celebration,” alumni celebration of African American firsts at UM
  • Oct. 1: On-field recognition of Meredith during the Ole Miss vs. Kentucky football game
  • Oct. 2: Longest Table, an opportunity to share a meal and connect with others at a table that spans the Circle 
  • January 31, 2023: Open Doors, dinner, and conversations with university administrators 
  • February 7, 2023: Black History Month keynote address featuring Dr. Judy Meredith 
  • February 17, 2023: Black Student Union’s 10th Annual Black History Month Gala 
  • Through March 2023: UM Libraries exhibit, “Paving the Path: James Meredith and the Integration of the University of Mississippi” 
  • April 11, 2023: Celebrating Diversity Excellence, an end-of-year celebration 
  • Through July 2023: UM Museum exhibit “The Fall of 1962,” collected artifacts and stories of the Ole Miss riot 
  • Speaker Series: A series of interactive dialogues and conversations throughout the academic year

Most of the events are free to the public. 

As part of the celebration, a commemorative book of essays called “James Meredith: Breaking the Barrier” will be released.

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