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James Meredith – an American Civil Rights Activist

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In June 25, 1933 James was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi. James was raised in a farm with nine siblings. His first experience with racism is when him and his brother were riding a train from Chicago. Meredith was ordered to give up his seat and go to the black section, where he had to stand. He said he would dedicate his life to helping African Americans get the same opportunities as the white people. After high school Meredith spent nine years in the United States air force before enrolling in jackson state college which was a all black school in Mississippi. He then applied for the white school University of Mississippi which he was initially accepted.

James Meredith was to make his name in civil rights history by being the first African-American to attend the University of Mississippi. Meredith filed a complaint with the courts that he had been rejected by the university simply because he was black. Threats were made against Meredith and Robert Kennedy, the Attorney-General, sent federal marshals to protect Meredith. However, his place on the march was taken by such figures in the civil rights movement as Martin Luther King and Stokely Carmichael who determined to finish the march on Meredith’s behalf. After this, James Meredith continued his further education at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria and at Columbia University.

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James H. Meredith, who in 1962 became the first African American to attend the University of Mississippi, is shot by a sniper shortly after beginning a lone civil rights march through the South. Known as the March Against Fear, Meredith had been walking from Memphis, Tennessee, to Jackson, Mississippi, in an attempt to encourage voter registration by African Americans in the South. On June 6, just one day into the march, he was sent to a hospital by a sniper’s bullet. Other civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr., and Stokely Carmichael, arrived to continue the march on his behalf.

James Meredith, an African American man, attempted to enroll at the all-white University of Mississippi in 1962.The case was eventually settled on appeal by the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in Merediths favor in September 1962. State officials, including Governor Ross Barnett, attempted to defy the Supreme Court decision, provoking a constitutional crisis between the state of Mississippi and the federal government. When Meredith arrived at the schools Oxford, Mississippi, campus under the protection of federal forces, including U.S. marshals, a mob of more than 2,000 students and others formed to block his way. Two people were killed and many others injured in the ensuing chaos, forcing Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to send federal marshals and later federalized National Guardsmen, in what essentially amounted to a military occupation of some 31,000 federal troops. Despite the fierce resistance, Meredith registered as the first African-American student at Ole Miss on October 1, 1962. For his part, James Meredith continued his activism as a student at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria and later at Columbia University.

State officials, initially refusing a U.S. Supreme Court order to integrate the school, blocked Meredith’s entrance, but, following large campus riots that left two people dead, Meredith was admitted to the university under the protection of federal marshals.Meredith served in the U.S. Air Force before attending an all-black school, Jackson State College. Meredith’s tenure at Mississippi was brief; he graduated in 1963 and wrote a memoir about the experience, called Three Years in Mississippi.


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