Ghosts of Ole Miss broadcast Part 5

James Meredith Remembers

I am doing a series on the “Ghosts of Ole Miss broadcast.” I enjoyed watching the Ghosts of Ole Miss broadcast on ESPN on 1-27-13 with my mother. She went to Ole Miss in the early 1960’s. Also living in Little Rock my wife has relatives that were also present and involved at Central High during the 1957 Little Rock Central High School Crisis. It is amazing that the neighboring states Arkansas and Mississippi both were a part of history like this.

Ole Miss reflects on the 50 years since integration

Jerry Mitchell, (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger11:09a.m. EDT October 1, 2012

The morning after the riot in September 1962, the University of Mississippi resembled a war-torn town with smoke rising from bombed-out cars.

Now the same campus is celebrating the event with posters: “50 Years of Integration: Opening the Closed Society” and “50 Years of Courage.”

History professor Charles Eagles worries the university is doing more celebrating than remembering.

“They’re celebrating 50 years of integration that followed 100 years of forced segregation,” said Eagles, author of The Price of Defiance: James Meredith and the Integration of Ole Miss. ”It’s like the university is celebrating redemption without confronting and admitting its sin.”

Susan Glisson, executive director of the William Winter Institute of Racial Reconciliation at the university, said events recognizing the 50th anniversary are “important first steps, but they should be seen as first steps. If we don’t learn the lessons in the past, nothing substantively changes, and with a 33% poverty rate among Mississippi children, we have much yet to learn and to do.”

And much of that poverty can be traced to the subjugation of more than a third of the state’s population.

When James Meredith entered the University of Mississippi in Oxford in fall 1962, Mississippians got swept up in a “hysterical wave of fear,” recalled former governor William Winter.

“We allowed ourselves to suffer along with everybody else,” he said. “We were victims of the system as much as black folks. We were all in bondage. (Meredith) helped free us all.”

The true story of what happened during the riot that began Sept. 30, 1962, was obscured then by “dishonest” media accounts, Winter said. “President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy were portrayed as villains.”

That riot ended with two deaths and injuries to more than 200 others, most of them federal marshals assigned to protect the Lyceum.

Some arrests took place with regard to the riot, but no one was convicted. No arrest took place in the death of French journalist Paul Guihard, who was shot in the back at almost point-blank range.

More needs to be done to teach students what led to this tragedy, Eagles said. “We need to teach what the ‘closed society’ was like.”

A century after the outcome of the Civil War swung on the battles of Vicksburg and Gettysburg, another conflict climaxed at Ole Miss, said David Sansing, author of The University of Mississippi: A Sesquicentennial History.

”The outcome of the civil rights movement was determined by Meredith’s admission at Ole Miss,” Sansing said.

What will determine the outcome in Mississippi’s race relations now is whether we can go beyond the law’s demands to establish deeper relationships across racial lines, said Neddie Winters, president of Mission Mississippi, a Christian-based, interracial movement committed to improving race relations. “Reconciliation means a total change.”

Meredith’s work as a trailblazer “really provided the pathway for an ongoing dialogue about race in a serious manner,” said Jackson State University political professor Leslie McLemore. “It caused Mississippi and some of the other states to examine where we were, who we are and where we are going.”

As a result, “Ole Miss has never been the same institution,” he said. “And I think you can say that of the rest of the institutions of higher learning in Mississippi.”

Today, minorities make up a fourth of the student populations of the university and the University of Mississippi Medical Center combined, and African Americans are two-thirds of those minorities. More than a third of the students at Delta State University and Mississippi University for Women are minorities.

Although Mississippi universities are more integrated, “you still don’t have the interracial society one would have expected,” McLemore said. “There are still a lot of challenges, but there are conversations about the challenges.”

Even as Ole Miss recalls what happened in 1962, history continues to be made.

This fall, Courtney Roxanne Pearson became the first African American chosen as the school’s homecoming queen. Earlier this year, Kimbrely Dandridge became the first African-American woman elected Associated Student Body president.

And a half-century after his admission, the relationship between Meredith and his alma mater remains as enigmatic as the man himself.

At the 40th anniversary celebration, officials honored him, but he never spoke. Years later, the university honored him with a statue. He has since asked the university to tear it down. Last week, he declared he wouldn’t attend the 50th anniversary events.

Myrlie Evers-Williams — the widow of Medgar Evers, who was denied admission to the university’s law school in 1954 — said the names of many who paved the way in the civil rights movement are being forgotten, including Constance Baker-Motley, who represented Meredith in his legal battle.

Donald Cole, an assistant to both the provost and chancellor at Ole Miss, said many freshmen arrive on campus “unaware of our history as an institution, unaware of our state’s history.”

Cole knows a little about his institution’s history. In 1970, Ole Miss expelled him and other African-American students after their protest at an Up With People concert.

Their complaint? They wanted the university to hire more minority faculty. Twenty-three years later, that wish became a reality when Cole joined the faculty.

He believes the university is positioning itself to be a voice for racial reconciliation, but acknowledges that challenges exist, including the recruitment of more minorities to faculty and administrative positions.

Ole Miss wants to change its image from one mired in old black-and-white footage, he said. “We want the world to know we’re a 21st-century university.”

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