James Meredith was born on this date, June 25, in 1933. He was an African American politician and activist.
Meredith was born in Kosciusko, MS. While attending Jackson State College, he was twice rejected in 1961 to attend the university. Meredith filed a complaint with the district court on May 31, 1961. Meredith’s allegation of denied admission because of his color was rejected. However, on appeal, the Fifth Judicial Circuit Court reversed this ruling. By a 2 to 1 decision the judges decided that Mississippi was maintaining a policy of educational segregation. He was the first Black person to be admitted to the University of Mississippi.
Meredith’s admission to the University of Mississippi was opposed by state officials and students. Attorney General Robert Kennedy sent federal marshals to protect Meredith from threats of lynching and other harm. Riots followed Kennedy’s decision, in which 160 marshals were wounded (28 by gunfire) and two bystanders were killed. Despite all of this, Meredith continued to study at the University of Mississippi and graduated in 1964. [Continue reading at the African American Registry.]
For further reading and research, see also:
The Price of Defiance: James Meredith and the Integration of Ole Miss by Charles W. Eagles. [book link]
A Mission from God: A Memoir and Challenge for America by James Meredith and William Doyle. [book link]