UM Commemorates 50 Years of Integration

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi continues the commemoration of its golden anniversary of integration with a series of special events scheduled over the next couple of weeks.

With “Opening the Closed Society” as its theme, events include keynote addresses by U.S. Attorney Gen. Eric Holder and legendary entertainer and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte. Other scheduled activities include panel discussions about various aspects of the historic event, brown bag luncheons and a walk of reconciliation and redemption. Most events are free and open to the public. The Holder and Belafonte events require tickets which may be obtained at no cost from the Central Ticket Office in the Student Union.

Holder speaks at the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College’s annual Fall Convocation at 7 p.m. Thursday (Sept. 27). Belafonte lectures on the topic “50 Years of Integration” at 6 p.m. Monday (Oct. 1). Both events will be held in the Ford Center for the Performing Arts.

On Sept. 30, 1962, violence erupted on the Oxford campus as federal officials accompanied James Meredith, the first African-American admitted to the university. Two men died, and dozens of citizens and military personnel were wounded during the riots that broke out as Meredith arrived on campus. The next morning, Meredith was officially admitted.

“With his admission on Oct. 1, 1962, James Meredith became one of the most heroic figures in the American civil rights movement,” said Chancellor Dan Jones. “His persistence and ultimate success laid the foundation for thousands of African-American students who earned degrees from this university in the years that followed.

“On the anniversary of such an important event, it is important to express regret for past injustices, recommit to open doors of opportunity for all, regardless of race or ethnicity, celebrate the progress achieved together and acknowledge that we still live in an imperfect world and must continue to seek to rid ourselves and the world of injustice.”

The university’s commemoration spans more than a year. Events, which began in the spring, include a long-term oral history project focusing on the university’s integration. Myrlie Evers Williams, former NAACP president, is scheduled to deliver the university’s commencement address May 11 in the Grove. Her late husband, Medgar Evers, was denied admission to the UM School of Law before Meredith successfully integrated the university.

October 1 events include a panel discussion on “The U.S. Marshals and Oxford” at 9:30 a.m. in the Student Union Ballroom. Panelists include John Meredith, son of James Meredith, and Don Forsht, Hershel Garner, Denzil N. “Bud” Staple, Curt Bowden and Robert Moore, all retired deputy U.S. marshals. David Turk, U.S. Marshals service historian, is the moderator.

The UM Black Student Union will pay tribute to Meredith in an 11 a.m. ceremony in the Student Union lobby. The Honorable Reuben Anderson, the first black graduate of the UM School of Law, the first black appointee to the State Supreme Court and the first black president of the Mississippi bar, will discuss “A Lawyer’s Impact: Mississippi Burning” at 1:30 p.m. in Room 1078 of the Robert C. Khayat Law Center. Anderson replaces the previously announced John Doar, former assistant attorney general for the U.S. Department of Justice.

Henry Gallagher, author of “James Meredith and the Ole Miss Riot,” will address “Integration at Ole Miss: An Army Perspective” at 3 p.m. in the Overby Center Auditorium.

Finally, “Meredith and Me: The Walk” begins at 5:15 p.m. at Baxter Hall (Meredith’s residence hall) and ends at the Lyceum.

Associate Professor Charles Ross, who has served as chair of the committee over the yearlong commemoration, said this commemoration is “important for the university.”

“The civil rights subcommittee was appointed and charged by the chancellor to oversee commemorative campus activities that would inform, educate and provide deserved recognition and acknowledgement to the historic, meaningful and significant activities that occurred on Oct. 1, 1962,” said Ross, director of UM’s African-American Studies program and associate professor of history. “The committee looks forward to leading the campus remembrance of this significant occasion with events that will provide tributes and acknowledgments to the opening of what was once a closed society.”

Other 50th anniversary events scheduled:

– Sept. 26: Brown Bag: “Legacies from the Battle of Ole Miss.” Robert W. Hamblin, professor of English at Southeast Missouri State University, speaks at noon in Barnard Observatory.

– Sept. 26: Panel Discussion: “September 1962.” An open invitation to all people who were on campus on during the crisis starts at 3 p.m. in Barnard Observatory.

– Sept. 30: “A Walk of Reconciliation and Redemption.” Begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Ford Center parking lot and ends at the Civil Rights Monument behind the Lyceum.

– Sept. 30: Prayer service at 7 p.m. on the Lyceum steps, led by members of the local religious community.

– Sept. 30: “Rebels: James Meredith and Integration.” A documentary produced by Andy Harper and Matthew Graves, of UM Media and Documentary Services, starting at 8 p.m. at the Ford Center.
View the trailer

– Oct. 2: “Finding JFK while Researching James Meredith.” The discussion with Judge Tyrone K. Yates begins at noon in the Faulkner Room of the J.D. Williams Library.

– Oct. 4: Panel: “An Assessment of Racial Progress.” Panelists include Donald Cole, who was once dismissed from Ole Miss for taking part in a civil rights demonstration and returned to become an assistant to the chancellor; Valeria Ross, a leading figure in racial reconciliation on campus; and Gerald Walton, who played a constructive role at Ole Miss as a young professor in 1962 and later rose to become provost before his retirement. The event begins at 11 a.m. in the Overby Center Auditorium. David Sansing, emeritus professor of history and author of the sesquicentennial history, “The University of Mississippi,” is the moderator.

– Oct. 10: Gilder-Jordan Lecture: Beginning at 7:30 p.m. in Nutt Auditorium, Grace Hale, professor of history and American Studies at the University of Virginia, discusses “Documentary Expression in the Civil Rights Era.”

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