James Meredith

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James H. Meredith (born June 25, 1933) is an American civil rights movement figure. He was the first African American student at the University of Mississippi, an event that was a flashpoint in the American civil rights movement. Motivated by the broadcast of President John F. Kennedy's inaugural address (which did not mention civil rights per se)[1] Meredith decided to apply his democratic rights and then made the ultimate decision to apply to the University of Mississippi.[1] Meredith's goal was to put pressure on the Kennedy administration as to the issue.[1]

Contents

Entrance to the University of Mississippi

Meredith was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi of Native American (Choctaw)[citation needed] and Black American heritage. He enlisted in the United States Air Force immediately after high school and served from 1951 to 1960[citation needed]. He attended Jackson State College for two years[citation needed], then applied to the University of Mississippi, saying that he wanted to make this move in the interest of his country, race, family, and himself. Meredith stated, "Nobody handpicked me...I believed, and believe now, that I have a Divine Responsibility...[2] I am familiar with the probable difficulties involved in such a move as I am undertaking and I am fully prepared to pursue it all the way to a degree from the University of Mississippi." However, even after all the trouble he went through he was denied twice.[3][4] On May 31, 1961, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed a suit in the U.S. District Court alleging that the color of his skin was the only reason for Meredith not being accepted into the university. The case went through many hearings and finally to the U.S. Supreme Court which ruled that he had the right to be admitted. Though Meredith was now allowed to register to the school, the Governor of Mississippi, Ross Barnett, attempted to block his entrance, passing a law that “prohibited any person who was convicted of a state crime from admission to a state school.” This law was directed at Meredith, who had been convicted of “false voter registration.”

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