In 1962, James Meredith, a 29-year-old former U.S. Air Force serviceman, applied to transfer to the University of Mississippi and was accepted. Then, the registrar discovered he was black and revoked his admission, laying the foundation for a firestorm of racism.A federal court ordered the school to admit Meredith but when he showed up, Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett was blocking the entrance. Two days later, Meredith was escorted onto campus by more than 500 U.S. marshals. Riots broke out leaving two students dead and hundreds wounded. For the next year, deputy marshals provided him with 24-hour protection as he endured taunts, heckling and bombardment with cherry bombs, water balloons and trash.
Meredith won a battle but wasn’t done fighting. He graduated with a degree in political science and, in an effort to encourage black Americans in the South to register to vote, embarked on a lone 220-mile march from Memphis, Tenn., to Jackson, Miss. On the second day, a sniper shot him. A Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of Meredith crawling on the highway galvanized the civil rights movement. After his wounds were treated, he went on to complete his “March Against Fear,” inspiring thousands to register.
Now 82, Meredith continues to fight for human rights and will speak Saturday in Moscow and Sunday in Lewiston. At both events Meredith will sign copies of his book, “A Mission from God: A Memoir and Challenge for America.”
Described as part-memoir, part-manifesto, Meredith details his historic experiences and his belief that public education is crucial in ending cycles of poverty and racism. Meredith believes public education is being ravaged by standardized testing, an over-reliance on charter schools and cyber-charters and funding for unproven computer products.
“Education is much too important to be left to politicians,” he stated in a news release for the book. “They have failed. They came up with No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, both of which are largely failures. It is time for parents, families and teachers to take back control, and step up to their responsibilities to take charge of education.”
if you go — WHO: Activist James Meredith • WHEN, WHERE AND COST: At 7 p.m. Saturday he’ll give the keynote address for the “Walk the Talk” human rights conference at the Bruce Pitman Center at the University of Idaho. Admission is $20 at the door. From 2-3:30 p.m. Sunday Meredith will give a free talk at the Lewis-Clark State College Silverthorne Theater.