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Essay: James Meredith the civil activist

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  • Published: 28 October 2015*
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  • Words: 1,100 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 5 (approx)

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The story of James Meredith rests on the wide and dispense in most libraries and various historical sources. Although the information does to cover his later life, the information provided equips the reader with a list of documentation of his experiences up to and through the 1963 era. We know that history is made when a person stands on his ground and demands his dreams to be fulfilled. However history still needs its reinforces and that is why when James Meredith sought to become the first black person to enroll at the University of Mississippi forty years ago, he was met by several challenges that he had to endure before he could be fully acknowledged. He had a duty to uphold the federal law for him to be allowed to join the university. There were about 127 deputy marshals who decided to risk their lives just to make his dreams come true. There has always been a wide race challenge in the United States of America facing the black people and in 1962 the cases were on the rise. Black people were denied some rights but changed when Meredith set his sight on overcoming all the obstacles and become the first black person to attend the Ole Miss.
He was determined to fight racism since he was dissatisfied with the way people related especially in the south and that is why he decided to apply for admission although he knew it was going to be a hard task. It was not going to be an easy task to get an admission at the university but Meredith was already aware of that. The citing administration refused to accept his application in huge numbers for several months. This prompted him to write a letter to the Thurgood Marshall and another one to the head of the National Association to get a defense for his colored people’s rights to enjoy the same rights as the whites. In the letter, he explained that he was aware of the difficulties involved in taking such a move but he said that he was fully prepared to pursue his dreams and overcome all the challenges he might come across. He wanted to make his dreams come true under all circumstances and nothing was going to stop him from doing what he felt was the right thing to do.
Kennedy was the only sympathetic leader to Meredith’s issue; this is because he scored a narrow election victory thanks to the black voters who supported him mightily. On the other hand Mississippi’s governor was very objective of the issue and during a TV interview he said that the institution was not ready to surrender to the illegal forces of tyranny and he declared that no school was going to be integrated in Mississippi while he was still in power. However later that year the court ruled in favor of Meredith and he was allowed the admission to join classes at the Mississippi university but Barnett was still against the court ruling. The task of enrolling safely and getting an admission at the university was entirely the role of the federal government and after the ruling president Kennedy sent his deputy Marshals into the fray. Meredith had to be accompanied by the chief U.S marshal to register at the university. Every time they went there they were stopped by the state politicians who were doing in accordance to Barnett orders. He had ordered that Mereith was not to be allowed to register at the university at all cost although the court had allowed him to register. After a long struggle president Kennedy escalated the matter and ordered that more marshals and deputies should accompany Meredith for his admission and ensure that he got admitted.
After a long struggle and state intervention Meredith finally got admitted into the university and he became the first black student to attend the ‘Ole Miss’. His admission was surely a violent confrontation between the students and the deputies. During the struggles more than 160 deputies got injured twenty eight out of them sustaining gun injuries. During the next year, the deputy marshals provided Meredith with a 24 hour protection while in his school and also when out of campus. They ensured that Meredith attended a school of his choice despite his race or color. He was determined to face all the challenges just to show everybody else that he had equal rights to attend college just lie his white peers.
Regardless of successfully enrolling into the university and graduated in 1964, Meredith was not fully satisfied with the way people approached him. He was the focal point of racism and this issue seemed to ignite a passion in him. In March 1966, he began his ‘March Against Fear’ movement from Memphis to Jackson in a move to protest against racism in the country and especially in learning institutions. Many Africa ‘Americans were subjected to violence and faced a lot of racism when they wanted to register as voters. Even before this movement bore any fruits Meredith was shot and got hospitalized. His place in the march was taken by other activists like Martin Luther King who were now determined to finish the march and get their rights on Meredith’s behalf. He rejoined the movement in June 25th 1966 after he had full recovered. Meredith continued with his education later at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria and later joined Columbia University where he gained A LL.B. towards the end of 1960s he had become the stockbroker and he stopped being a civil rights. He activist joined the Republican Party and that is where he contributed in fighting the white liberals since according to him they were the greatest enemy to civil rights of the African-American people.
In 1962 he highlighted and planned a solo 220 mile march to fight against the continuing racism especially in the south and encourage voter registration for the blacks. He did not want to engage in major civil right activism but during the second day of his call he was shot and suffered serious numerous wounds. However during the course of the movement more than 4,000 African-Americans had registered as voters and the march acted a as catalysts to continue with the community organization into the movement. In 2002 and in 2012 the University of Mississippi conducted one year long series of events in memory of the 40th and 50th anniversaries of Meredith and his integration into the institution. He was one of the greatest speakers invited into the campus and in his honor a statute was built to commemorate him and his role in the university.

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