September-October 1962: James Meredith at Ole Miss

On October 1, 1962, James Meredith enrolls as the first black student at the University of Mississippi.

Background: 1961

James Howard Meredith, a 27-year-old Air Force veteran and a student at Jackson State College, applies for admission to Ole Miss, hoping to complete his degree in political science.

January 21, 1961: Meredith writes the university's registrar, seeking an application for admission.
* Letter: @

January 26: Registrar Robert B. Ellis replies, enclosing an application.
* Letter: @

January 31: Meredith informs the school that he is black (top image). "I certainly hope that this matter will be handled in a manner that will be complimentary to the University and to the State of Mississippi," he writes.
* Letter: @

February 4: Ole Miss sends Meredith a telegram stating: "For your information and guidance it has been found necessary to discontinue consideration of all applications for admission or registration for the second semester which were received after January 25 1961. Your application was received subsequent to such date and thus we must advise you not to appear for registration."
* Telegram: @

May 25: After a series of letters between Meredith and the school about admission requirements, Meredith's application is denied. The letter states: "The University cannot recognize the transfer of credits from the institution which you are now attending since it is not a member of the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. Our policy permits the transfer of credits only from member institutions of regional associations. Furthermore, students may not be accepted by the University from those institutions whose programs are not recognized. As I am sure you realize, your application does not meet other requirements for admission. Your letters of recommendation are not sufficient for either a resident or a nonresident applicant. I see no need for mentioning any other deficiencies."

May 31: Meredith files suit in U.S. District Court. A long legal battle ensues as the case moves through various courts, rulings and appeals.

* Chronology through September 26, 1962: @
* Meredith v. Fair (U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, June 25, 1962): @


September 10: The case reaches the U.S. Supreme Court. "Justice Hugo L. Black ruled today that the University of Mississippi must admit a Negro for the first time this fall. Justice Black nullified a series of orders by Judge Ben F. Cameron of the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that would have postponed the admission of James H. Meredith." (United Press International)

September 11: Meredith sends a telegram to Registrar Ellis stating, "I plan to enroll in Sept. Please advise when to report for registration."
* Telegram: @

September 13: In a speech carried over statewide television and radio, Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett, left, responds to Black's order (as well as to a subsequent decision by U.S. District Judge Sidney Mize).  "I shall do everything in my power to prevent integration in our schools," he says, invoking the doctrine of interposition, in which states have authority superseding that of the federal government. "There is no case in history where the Caucasian race has survived social integration. We will not drink from the cup of genocide."
* Portion of speech: @
* Interposition declaration (begins on Page 8): @

September 15-30: A series of phone calls take place involving Barnett, President Kennedy and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. They are unable to reach agreement on Meredith's admittance.
* Audio and transcripts (from JFK Library): @

September 20: Meredith, having been transported to the Oxford campus, is physically prevented from enrolling by Gov. Barnett, who reads a declaration of interposition. The scene would be repeated in Jackson on September 25 and again in Oxford on September 26 (this time by Lt. Gov. Paul Johnson). A planned registration attempt on September 27 was canceled amid reports of a large, hostile crowd on campus.
* Daytona Beach Morning Journal (September 28): @

September 24: Ole Miss is featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated's college football preview issue. (The team would go 10-0 and finish 3rd in the AP and UPI football polls.)
* "Ghosts of Mississippi" (ESPN.com): @

September 29: President Kennedy sends a telegram to Gov. Barnett, citing "a breakdown of law and order" and asking whether Barnett intends to comply with the legal rulings and admit Meredith.
* Telegram: @

Gov. Barnett addresses the crowd during halftime of the Ole Miss-Kentucky game in Jackson. He says: "I love Mississippi. I love her people. Our customs. I love and I respect our heritage."
* Footage from speech: @

Sunday night, September 30, 1962

In the early evening, Gov. Barnett says in a speech carried statewide: "My heart still says 'never,' but my calm judgment abhors the bloodshed that would follow. ... Gentlemen, you are trampling on the sovereignty of this great state and depriving it of every vestige of honor and respect as a member of the United States."
* Text: @

About two hours later, President Kennedy goes on national television to say that Meredith has been moved to the Ole Miss campus. (Meredith was by that time inside a residence hall, guarded by federal marshals.) He expresses hopes for a peaceful outcome but announces he has placed the Mississippi National Guard under federal authority. "My obligation ... is to implement the orders of the court with whatever means are necessary, and with as little force and civil disorder as the circumstances permit."
* Video, transcript of President Kennedy speech: @
* Copy of speech: @
* Executive Order 11053 ("Providing Assistance for the Removal of Unlawful Obstructions of Justice in the State of Mississippi"): @

An hour later, Barnett again speaks, via statewide radio. "I will never yield a single inch in my determination to win the fight we are engaged in. I call on Mississippians to keep the faith and courage. We will never surrender."

Even before Barnett's first statement, the situation on the ground had started to unravel. After securing Meredith in his room, federal marshals, U.S. border patrolmen and prison guards -- more than 500 in all -- had assembled in front of the Lyceum, the administration building. By 6 p.m., a hostile crowd -- some of them students, but largely people from Mississippi and beyond -- had grown into a mob estimated at 2,000. The situation worsened through the night, despite the arrival of National Guard troops. The crowd threw rocks, bricks and Molotov cocktails; the federal forces responded with tear gas (they had been ordered not to use their guns on the crowd). Cars were set ablaze; snipers fired on the marshals. The Lyceum was turned into a makeshift field hospital. Two men -- French journalist Paul Guihard and Ray Gunter from Abbeville, Mississippi -- were shot dead, Guihard intentionally and Gunter apparently by a stray bullet. At least 250 people were injured. 

Only with the arrival of U.S. Army troops did the tide turn and the violence subside. By daybreak, what had been a war zone was relatively calm.

The photos above show the marshals ringing the Lyceum (photo by Associated Press); the building shrouded in tear gas (photo by Corbis Images); and the scene inside (photo by Charles Moore).

The top image shows the campus on September 30, with the Lyceum in the middle (photo by Time-Life). The map below it is from the book "Federal Military Forces in Domestic Disorders," linked below. The bottom map was drawn by Ole Miss student Curtis Wilkie, whose book "Dixie" is also linked below. This map is from the Integration Images and Documents Collection of the University of Mississippi Libraries, also linked below. (Click on images to enlarge.) 

Monday morning, October 1, 1962

James Meredith completes the paperwork to become a member of the Ole Miss student body. At right is Robert B. Ellis, Ole Miss registrar. 
(Photos by Corbis Images)

Troops continue to pour into the area; the total number deployed would reach 31,000, divided among Oxford, Memphis and Columbus, Miss. The last troops were pulled out in July 1963, though a few federal marshals remained until Meredith graduated in August 1963.

* "Lyceum - The Circle Historic District" (from National Park Service; the area was designated as a historic district in 2008): @
* "Integrating Ole Miss: A Civil Rights Milestone" (John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum): @
* "The U.S. Marshals and the Integration of the University of Mississippi" (from www.usmarshals.gov): @ / U.S. Marshals video: @
* From National Visionary Leadership Project: @
* From Civil Rights Movement Veterans website: @
* From BBC: @
* From UPI: @
* Excerpt from "Eyes on the Prize" (PBS documentary, 1987): @; / transcript: @

Media reports
* "U.S. vs Mississippi" (newsreel): @
* "Meredith attends classes, campus still 'fairly tense' " (newsreel): @
* ABC news report after Meredith's enrollment: @
* New York Times story (October 1): @
* The Miami News (October 1): @
* The Miami News (October 2): @
* The Milwaukee Journal (October 1): @
* United Press International stories: @
* The Guardian (October 1): @
* Life magazine (October 12; editorial, page 6; story and photos, page 32): @
* Ebony magazine (December): @

* "The Price of Defiance: James Meredith and the Integration of Ole Miss" (Charles W. Eagles, 2009): @
* "The Battle of Ole Miss: Civil Rights v. States' Rights" (Frank Lambert, 2009): @
* Excerpt from "American Insurrection" (William Doyle, 2001): @ / author's essay: @
* "James Meredith and the Ole Miss Riot: A Soldier's Story" (Henry T. Gallagher, 2012): @
* "The Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission: Civil Rights and States' Rights" (Yasuhiro Katagiri, 2001): @
* "Dixie: A Personal Odyssey Through Events That Shaped the Modern South" (Curtis Wilkie, 2002): @
* "The Role of Federal Military Forces in Domestic Disorders, 1945-1992" (Paul J. Schieps, 1992): @
* Excerpt from "The Bystander: John F. Kennedy and the Struggle for Black Equality" (Nick Bryant, 2006): @
* Excerpt from "The Expanding Vista: American Television in the Kennedy Years" (Mary Ann Watson, 1994): @
* Excerpt from "Champion of Civil Rights: Judge John Minor Wisdom" (John William Friedman, 2009): @

Other resources
* James Howard Meredith Collection, University of Mississippi Libraries: @
* "50 Years of Intergration at the University of Mississippi" (50years.olemiss.edu): @
* Integration Images and Documents, University of Mississippi Libraries: @
* Civil Rights in Mississippi Digital Archive, University of Southern Mississippi: @
* Desegregation of the University of Mississippi documents (U.S. Department of Justice): @
* Desegration of Schools documents (Department of Justice): @
* Sovereignty Commission Online (Mississippi Department of Archives and History): @
* " 'The Fight For Men's Minds': The Aftermath of the Ole Miss Riot of 1962" (Charles W. Eagles, The Journal of Mississippi History): @
* "A report concerning the occupation of the campus of the University of Mississippi" (General Legislative Investigating Committee, State of Mississippi, May 1963): @
* James Meredith's website: @
* "The Legacy of James Meredith" (University of Mississippi Media & Documentary Projects): @
* "State of Siege: Mississippi Whites and the Civil Rights Movement" (American RadioWorks): @
* "The Battle of Ole Miss" (from ABC journalist Ed Silverman): @
* More about Paul Guihard (from Syracuse University): @
* Other papers from JFK Library: @
* Resources from Civil Rights Digital Library: @
* Photos from Library of Congress: @
* Footage from CriticalPast (much of it without sound): @  

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