Oxford, Mississippi

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Oxford is a city in, and the county seat of, [1] Lafayette County, Mississippi, United States. Founded in 1835, it was named after the British university city of Oxford in hopes of having the state university located there, which it did successfully attract.

The population is about 19,000, due to the city's recent annexation of five square miles of Lafayette County in all directions.[2] Oxford is the home of the University of Mississippi, founded in 1848, also commonly known as "Ole Miss."

Oxford has been named by USA Today as one of the top six college towns in the nation. It is included in The Best 100 Small Towns in America. Lafayette County consistently leads the state rankings in the lowest unemployment rate per quarter. Oxford City Schools are ranked as "Star" schools, the highest ranking available, and Lafayette County school systems are consistently ranked as "5-star" systems.

Contents

History

Oxford became a center of culture as the location of the University of Mississippi, founded in 1848 as the first rank college of the state. The university was segregated until 1962.

In a pattern typical of many areas, after the Civil War numerous freedmen moved from farms into town to establish their own community. They called their neighborhood "Freedmen Town". They built houses, businesses, churches and schools, eagerly embracing education. They exercised all the rights of citizenship.[3] Even after Mississippi disenfranchised most African Americans and poor whites with provisions of its new constitution in 1890, they proceeded to build their lives in the face of discrimination.

During the Civil Rights Movement, Oxford gained national attention in 1962 as a combination of the governor and University of Mississippi officials attempted to prevent James Meredith from integrating the University of Mississippi after he won a federal court case for admittance. Meredith began his quest for admission in January 1961, after watching John F. Kennedy's inaugural speech. Meredith sent a letter to the Registrar of The University of Mississippi requesting a catalog and an application for admission. University officials responded promptly with the materials and invited Meredith to apply. When officials learned from Meredith that he was African-American, his application was immediately rejected without comment, and Meredith's legal battles with the University began. Meredith was finally admitted in the summer of 1962 by a federal court in New Orleans, and made preparations to begin his studies in the fall of 1962. President John F. Kennedy, after secret telephone negotiations with Governor Ross Barnett, ordered United States Marshals to protect Meredith. Meredith traveled to Oxford under armed guard to register in late September 1962. Due primarily to Governor Barnett's political posturing and Attorney General Robert Kennedy's eagerness to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, riots broke out in protest of his admittance. Thousands of armed "volunteers" flowed into the Oxford area to prevent Meredith's admittance. During the rioting, late on the evening of Sunday, September 30, 1962, two men, a French journalist sent to cover the events, and a Lafayette County resident, Ray Gunter, were killed by stray bullets. During the riots by segregationists, cars were burned, federal marshals were pelted with rocks, bricks, small arms fire and university property was damaged. The Mississippi Highway Patrol, on campus to supposedly provide security for the University and for Meredith, stood by passively while the riots were taking place.

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