Breaking Down Barriers: The Story of James Meredith

James Meredith became very prominent in the civil rights movement when he applied to attend the all-white college, The University of Mississippi. Meredith’s goal, when he applied to the school, was to place pressure on the Kennedy Administration to enforce civil rights for African Americans.

In 1962, his plan worked. After the Governor of Mississippi, Ross Barnett refused to comply and attempted to block the entrance of the school, preventing Meredith from getting in. President Kennedy sent in federal marshals and troops to escort Meredith to the school. This accomplishment made James Meredith the first African American enrolled at the University of Mississippi. In 1966, he continued his quest to eradicate injustice by planning a solo 220-mile March Against Fear from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi.

He wanted to highlight the continued racism in the south and encourage the black community to register to vote after the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Unfortunately, on the second day of the march, he was shot by a sniper. The injuries he suffered were non-life threatening but that incident was pivotal in the civil rights movement because in his absence several other prominent civil rights figures like Martin Luther King Jr and Stokely Carmichael resumed the march in his name.

James Meredith in pain after being shot.

Meredith rejoined the march on June 25, 1966, after his hospital treatment. On the following day, they made it to their destination. In an interview with CNN, Meredith was asked why he chose such an active role in the civil rights struggle and he replied “I was engaged in a war. I considered myself engaged in a war from Day One. And my objective was to force the federal government – the Kennedy Administration at that time – into a position where they would have to use the United States military force to enforce my rights as a citizen.” 



















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