TODAY'S PAPER
59° Good Morning
59° Good Morning
NewsNation

Icon says he won't be honoring integration

JACKSON, Miss. -- James Meredith a civil-rights icon, hates the term "civil rights." It's as if civil rights were somehow set apart from -- well, rights.

"When it comes to my rights as an American citizen, and yours, I am a triumphalist and an absolutist. Anything less is an insult," said the black man who 50 years ago inflamed white Mississippi by quietly demanding admission to the segregated state flagship university.

Now 79 and living in Jackson, Meredith sees himself as a messenger of God -- a warrior who crippled the beast of white supremacy by integrating the University of Mississippi.

These days, he frequently wears an Ole Miss baseball hat in public. When the football team recently played the University of Texas in Oxford, Meredith was a guest in the chancellor's stadium skybox, and the crowd applauded when that was announced.

Yet he says he doesn't plan to participate in the university's commemoration of his history-making enrollment, which prompted a state-federal standoff, sparked deadly mob violence and ultimately ended the university's official policy of racial segregation.

Meredith says he doesn't see the point.

"I ain't never heard of the French celebrating Waterloo," he told The Associated Press. "I ain't never heard of the Germans celebrating the invasion of Normandy, or . . . the bombing and destruction of Berlin. I ain't never heard of the Spanish celebrating the destruction of the Armada." Asked to clarify, he said: "Did you find anything 50 years ago that I should be celebrating?"

In a state with a 37 percent black population, Ole Miss now has a 16.6 percent black enrollment. Student body president Kim Dandridge is the fourth black person elected to the post.

In the face of Mississippi's defiance, federal authorities deployed 3,000 soldiers and 500 law enforcement officers to Oxford. A mob yelled and hurled bricks. Tear gas canisters exploded. Two white men were killed. More than 200 people were injured, including 160 U.S. marshals.

Comments

We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

News Photos and Videos