James Meredith and the Struggle to Integrate the University of Mississippi

In 1961, James Meredith, a black man, applied for admission to the University of Mississippi, believing it was within his civil rights to attend a public, state-funded university. The school rejected him twice. After an ongoing battle between the state and federal governments, U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy called for 500 U.S. marshals to escort Meredith during his registration, and President John F. Kennedy issued a proclamation ordering anyone obstructing the law to cease and desist.

Once the police presence was removed on the evening of September 29, 1962, a violent riot broke out on campus. President Kennedy sent the Mississippi National Guard and federal troops to the university to help gain control, but before the violence ended, two people had been fatally shot and many others were injured, including federal marshals who were hit with rocks, bricks and gunfire.

Despite the rioting, on October 1, James Meredith officially became the first African-American student to enroll at the University of Mississippi. Meredith graduated with a degree in political science on August 18, 1963.

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