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Price of Defiance

James Meredith and the Integration of Ole Miss

Charles W. Eagles

Publication Year: 2009

After fighting a protracted legal battle, James Meredith broke the color barrier in 1962 as the first African American student to enroll at the University of Mississippi. The riot that followed his arrival on campus seriously wounded scores of U.S. marshals and killed two civilians, more casualties than any other clash of the civil rights era. To restore order, the Kennedy administration dispatched thousands of soldiers to Oxford.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 1-8

After his first night in his dormitory room, James Meredith rode in a riotbattered border patrol car to the Lyceum building at the center of the University of Mississippi campus. Escorted by agents of the U.S. Justice Department, he observed the debris from the previous...

PART 1. Ole Miss and Race

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1. "Welcome to Ole Miss, Where Everybody Speaks’’

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pp. 9-25

At the start of the 1960 football season, Sports Illustrated featured a fullpage color photograph of a beautiful young woman and a handsome football player strolling hand in hand across the University of Mississippi campus.1

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2. Following Community Mores: J. D. Williams and Postwar Race Relations

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pp. 26-40

In 1951, Chancellor J. D. Williams counseled a Kentucky colleague on the race question by recommending that he ‘‘follow the mores of the community in which you are located.’’ Acknowledging that no blacks attended Ole Miss, Williams explained that his university...

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3. ‘‘I Love Colored People, but in Their Place’’: Segregation at Ole Miss

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pp. 41-59

Ole Miss had no black students in the 1940s and 1950s, but black workers on the campus nonetheless interacted in limited ways with white students, faculty, and sta√. A complicated combination of customs, habits, rules, and laws regulated their contacts...

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4. ‘‘Negroes Who Didn’t Know Their Place’’: Early Attempts at Integration

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pp. 60-79

In October 1950, the editor of the Mississippian endorsed racial integration. Though two hundred Negroes attended previously all-white southern colleges and universities, Ole Miss remained completely white. Defying the state’s rigid policy of segregation in higher education...

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5. Integration and Insanity: Clennon King in 1958

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pp. 80-98

On June 5, 1958, Clennon Washington King arrived at Ole Miss to register for the first session of summer school. Weeks earlier, the black minister and college professor had announced his intention to break the color barrier, but unlike other blacks interested...

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6. They Will ‘‘Want to Dance with Our Girls’’: Unwritten Rules and Rebel Athletics

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pp. 99-116

In the wake of the 1954 Brown decision, white Mississippians mobilized to defy desegregation, not just in public schools but in all areas of life. They interpreted Brown as a harbinger of greater threats to segregation and white supremacy...

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7. ‘‘Mississippi Madness’’: Will Campbell and Religious Emphasis Week

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pp. 117-138

Barely three months after the Brown decision, Reverend Will Campbell became director of religious life at Ole Miss. During the next two years, the Baptist minister helped coordinate a provocative...

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8. Nemesis of the Southern Way of Life—Jim Silver

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pp. 139-159

Many alumni of Ole Miss and leaders in Mississippi knew Chancellor Williams because he spoke to alumni groups and worked with the political and economic elite...

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9. ‘‘On the Brink of Disaster’’: Defending States’ Rights, Anticommunism, and Segregation

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pp. 160-180

I know that communism is being taught by some professors at Ole Miss, and I believe the same is true for Mississippi State [College] and other state institutions,’’ charged Representative Hamer McKenzie of Benton...

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10. ‘‘Thought Control’’: The Editor and the Professor

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pp. 181-198

In the summer of 1960, W. A. Lufburrow, the executive secretary of the States’ Rights Council of Georgia, told William J. Simmons of the Citizens’ Council about the activities of Billy Barton, an Ole Miss student...

PART 2. James Meredith

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11. The Making of a Militant Conservative—J. H. Meredith

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pp. 201-220

On January 26, 1961, a neatly typed letter arrived at the Ole Miss registrar’s office; it asked for an application for admission, a catalog, and any other useful information. As part of the daily mail in Robert B. Ellis’s office, the inquiry from a man on Maple...

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12 .‘‘I Regret to Inform You . . .’’

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pp. 221-238

With the declaration that he was ‘‘not a White applicant,’’ James Meredith’s application caught Ole Miss officials only slightly by surprise. No Mississippi college or university had desegregated, but university leaders must have monitored...

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13. Meredith v. Fair I: ‘‘Delay, Harassment, and Masterly Inactivity’’

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pp. 239-260

On May 31, 1961, on the fourth floor of the Meridian federal courthouse, James Meredith’s legal battle began before Judge Sidney Mize. ldf lawyers presented his grievances against the fifteen trustees, headed by Charles D. Fair, and three Ole Miss representatives,...

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14. Meredith v. Fair II: A ‘‘Legal Jungle’’

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pp. 261-276

On February 5, 1962, two days after Judge Sidney Mize ruled that Ole Miss had not rejected James Meredith because of his race, and pending an appeal, Constance Motley asked the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to prohibit the university from blocking...

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15. Negotiations: A Game of Checkers

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pp. 277-296

The Meridian Star hailed the struggle over James Meredith’s admission as ‘‘the battle of Armageddon between racial purity and mongrelization’’ and insisted, ‘‘We must prevail. We have too much to lose.’’1 Though Justice Hugo Black’s September 10 ruling may...

PART 3. A Fortress of Segregation Falls

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16. Initial Skirmishing: September 20–25, 1962

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pp. 299-318

On Thursday, September 20, James Meredith went to Oxford to register but was refused. In the following week he tried three more times, unsuccessfully. While he moved between Memphis, Oxford, and Jackson in his attempt to enroll, larger forces worked to assist or thwart him. The Kennedy administration tried for a peaceful...

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17. Confrontations: September 26–30, 1962

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pp. 319-339

Everything all right down there?’’ Robert Kennedy asked Ross Barnett early Tuesday evening, shortly after the governor prevented Meredith’s attempt to enroll at the trustees’ office. The governor assured Kennedy that the crowd had only booed Meredith and cheered himself. When Barnett said that Meredith had not registered...

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18. ‘‘A Maelstrom of Savagery and Hatred’’: The Riot

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pp. 340-370

In a modern version of David versus Goliath, Governor Ross Barnett, the rural Mississippian who had put himself through college working as a barber and door-to-door salesman, battled President John F. Kennedy, the Harvard-educated scion of a wealthy...

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19. ‘‘Prisoner of War in a Strange Struggle’’: Meredith at Ole Miss

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pp. 371-396

Monday morning after the riot, James Meredith skipped breakfast and went to the Lyceum. Escorted by John Doar, James McShane, and several marshals, he rode from Baxter Hall in a riot-damaged border patrol car. Dressed in a suit and tie...

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20. J. H. Meredith, Class of’ 63

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pp. 397-424

I have concluded that the ‘Negro’ should not return to the University of Mississippi. The prospects for him are too unpromising,’’ announced James Meredith at a Jackson news conference on January 30, 1963. His statement stunned the fifty newsmen and one hundred...

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21. ‘‘The Fight for Men’s Minds’’

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pp. 425-443

Ten days after the riot in the fall of 1962, a Scripps-Howard reporter concluded that in ‘‘the one battlefield that counts most: The fight for men’s minds,’’ desegregationists had won a major battle at Ole Miss. They had demonstrated dedication...


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p. 445-445


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pp. 445-542

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Essay on Sources

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pp. 543-546

The story of Ole Miss, race, and James Meredith rests on wide and deep research in a variety of sources. A full bibliography would involve a cumbersome recitation of information contained in the notes and would not differentiate adequately among the many sources. Instead of a lengthy list, the following...

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pp. 547-548

The three people listed on the dedication page are the most important and deserve my thanks first. In addition to being my three best friends and making everything worthwhile, they provided smart and wise counsel. From the beginning years ago, Brenda provided indispensable support of all kinds...


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pp. 549-560

E-ISBN-13: 9781469605067
E-ISBN-10: 1469605066
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807832738
Print-ISBN-10: 0807832731

Page Count: 584
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2009

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • University of Mississippi -- History.
  • Meredith, James, 1933-.
  • College integration -- Mississippi -- Oxford -- History.
  • African Americans -- Civil rights.
  • Civil rights -- Mississippi -- Oxford -- History.
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