​October 1, 1962: James Meredith Enters The University Of Mississippi

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After several attempts and being blocked by the Lt. Governor, James Meredith is escorted by U.S. Marshals and enrolls at the University of Mississippi, defying segregation. 

Meredith became the 1st African-American student at the University of Mississippi. His enrollment sparked the Ole Miss riot of 1962. The Ole Miss riot was fought between Southern segregationist civilians and federal and state forces. 

White students and anti-desegregation supporters protested his enrollment by rioting on the Oxford campus which left 2 people dead.

Robert Kennedy called in 500 U.S. Marshals to take control, who were supported by the 70th Army Engineer Combat Battalion from Ft Campbell, Kentucky. They created a tent camp and kitchen for the US Marshals. To bolster law enforcement, President John F. Kennedy sent in U.S. Army military police from the 503rd Military Police Battalion, and called in troops from the Mississippi Army National Guard and the U.S. Border Patrol as well.

In the violent clash, two people died, including the French journalist Paul Guihard, on assignment for the London Daily Sketch. He was found dead behind the Lyceum building with a gunshot wound to the back. One hundred-sixty US Marshals, one-third of the group, were injured in the melee, and 40 soldiers and National Guardsmen were wounded.

The US government fined Barnett $10,000 and sentenced him to jail for contempt, but the charges were later dismissed by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Meredith’s entry is regarded as a pivotal moment in the history of civil rights in the United States. He graduated on August 18, 1963 with a degree in political science.

Many students harassed Meredith during his two semesters on campus but others accepted him.

According to first-person accounts chronicled in Nadine Cohodas’ book The Band Played Dixie (1997), students living in Meredith’s dorm bounced basketballs on the floor just above his room through all hours of the night. Other students ostracized him: when Meredith walked into the cafeteria for meals, the students eating would turn their backs. If Meredith sat at a table with other students, all of whom were white, the students would immediately get up and go to another table.


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