John Meredith, son of civil rights legend James Meredith who was the first African-American to integrate the University of Mississippi in 1962, was the keynote speaker at the 2016 Black History Month Observance at Jefferson State on Tuesday, February 16th.
Meredith spoke to a capacity audience about the events and timeline leading up to his father’s integration of Ole Miss in 1962 and an overview of Meredith’s 1966 “March Against Fear” voter registration effort. It was during this march that Meredith was shot by a sniper. Civil rights activists, including Martin Luther King, Jr., continued the march in Meredith’s name until he recovered and was able complete the march.
Mr. Meredith shared childhood memories and rare, historic photos as well as gave attendees an update on where James Meredith is now. Meredith also discussed views on the importance of participation in the public policy process (i.e. voting) as a means of influencing how government and its institutions treat the citizens they are established to serve. The presentation concluded with an audience question & answer period.
When James Meredith integrated Ole Miss in 1962, the tide slowly began to turn regarding the admittance of blacks to southern institutions of higher learning and was an important precursor to Jefferson State’s long-standing policy of color-blind admission.