James Meredith admitted, “People have a real hard time putting me into words.” … MS Journalist Bill Minor said, “Its so hard to separate the true James Meredith from what he says for effect.”
Meredith said, “I am a free American citizen… I was born black.”
Meredith’s connection to Medgar W. Evers helped turn his idea of integrating OLE MISS into a reality. Evers helped Meredith obtain the support of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund, a resource necessary to fight the Mississippi courts. JFK and RFK authorized the US Marshals and the military to protect Meredith, a resource which saved his life.
After writing a biography about Meredith (James Meredith: Warrior and the America that created him – OCT 2012) and reading this memoir I understand the irony of some of the comments Meredith said for effect.
He risks his life to become the 1st black to attend Ole Miss October 1, 1962. He noted that the federal government authorized helicopters to monitor a game of golf he played with one of his college professors, but other than that event, his college life was severely isolated. He didn’t have the privilege of studying with a group of students or discussing a class lecture. A few students who attempted to be friendly to him were mentally tormented.
Meredith’s blood was spilled in the street June 6, 1966 on Hwy 51 before wide spread voting rights for blacks occurred in his home state. True, a march on a much grandeur scale was resumed by MLK, Stokely Carmichael, and others, but Meredith was already trying to register voters in Hernando, MS before he was shot…
In this century, Meredith marched on behalf of AIDS, to support justice for immigrants, and to improve the conditions of the poor and public education.
He rises early, has a light breakfast and juice, and engages in his regular exercise regimen before most Americans wake up. On his next birthday, he will be 80, but odds are we haven’t seen or heard the last of this unsung hero.
He’s like a good battery – he just keeps going.