Clarion-Ledger: New Essay Collection Tells the Story of Meredith’s Enrollment

Essays celebrate 60th anniversary of James Meredith’s enrollment at University of Mississippi

By Lauren Rhoades

Oct. 1 marks the 60th anniversary of James Meredith’s 1962 enrollment at the University of Mississippi as the school’s first African-American student. “James Meredith: Breaking the Barrier,” a collection of essays edited by UM professor of journalism Kathleen Wickham, honors this historic milestone with accounts from eyewitnesses, historians, former UM students, journalists and James Meredith himself. 

These diverse perspectives offer a unique, well-rounded examination of segregated Mississippi’s fear-fueled political climate and the deadly riots in the days leading up to Meredith’s enrollment. Readers also gain insight into the tactical brilliance of one of the civil rights era’s most misunderstood leaders.

In his essay “The Warrior,” historian William Doyle writes that Medgar Evers, one of Meredith’s earliest and most important allies, called the 26-year-old veteran “the hardest-headed son-of-a-gun I ever met.” A member of Meredith’s NAACP legal defense said that he “acted like he was an agent of God.” Meredith himself felt he carried a “Divine responsibility,” a conviction which sustained him through a year-and-a-half-long legal battle and ultimately won him the support of President Kennedy, the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. military.

Read the complete report here.