The 1962 University of Mississippi Riots That Changed The World

By | September 4, 2021

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Integrating Ole Miss did not happen easily, although accidentally. (getty)

The 1962 riots at the University of Mississippi campus marked a turning point for racial equality in the region. For a state that featured the confederate emblem on their state flag well into the 21st century, progress came slowly. Nevertheless, the enrollment of James H. Meredith due to clerical oversight set off a chain of events that rocked Ole Miss to its core. A showdown between President Kennedy and Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett, highlighted by a fiery call to arms before a football game, ended with two dead and hundreds injured.

Angry segregationists clashed with U.S Marshals, the Mississippi National Guard, and Army troops. Despite the mass violence, Meredith’s enrollment proceeded, marking the historic integration of the University of Mississippi.

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James Meredith became the first African-American student at the University of Mississippi. (NPR)

Clerical Integration

Amazingly these brutal riots protesting integration all started due to clerical oversight. James Meredith’s application received a stamp of approval by someone who thought he was white. Simply his name accompanied by “former servicemen of the U.S. Air Force” leaves his race ambiguous. However, when the registrar did learn of his ethnicity, they attempted to revoke his admission. That of course, led to a court case.