James Meredith presented his case to the state and federal government, he simply asking them and then the fifth circuit court ordering them, to implement the law. James wrote a letter to the U.S. Dept of Justice on February 21st, 1961. He ask for their help using their power and influence to insure compliance with the law. In another letter to Thurgood Marshall, who was the head of the NAACP, he asked for help because “I anticipate encountering some difficulties”.
What the hell was Bobby waiting for? Was he not the head of the department of justice? Why was it taking him and Jack a so long to be brave! Not until August 31st 1962 did the case get to Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black and in ten short days, finally, on September 10th 1962 the Supreme Court ordered Ole Miss to admit James Meredith.
Governor of Mississippi Ross Barnett declares: "There is no case in history where the Caucasian race has survived social integration. We will not drink from the cup of genocide. ... We must either submit to the unlawful dictates of the Federal government or stand up like men and tell them never! No school will be integrated in Mississippi while I am your Governor”.
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Here’s the thing, I can look back over the entire past two years and I’ve watched my heroes fade away. The 1962 charts had a couple of Elvis songs – slower tempos – and even a Chubby Checker song called “Slow Twistin” but where’s Little Richard, where’s Chuck Berry, where are all the original rockers whose roots have provided me with the diversity I can “feel”. And that’s it – I can only define a back beat – emphasis on 2 – 4 in a 4/4 bar. I know the music schools, here, Northwestern, Chicago teach and study classical music and some jazz and maybe that’s the way they should be. They’re training people for and subsidized by symphonic expressions. These are people who write books and have lectures and discussion groups about a single piece of music.
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Then the Mississippi legislature jumps in with a measure supporting the Governor with a vote of confidence. The next day, the state circuit court tried James in abstentia and found him guilty of ‘moral turpitude’ and fined him one hundred dollars. Well now, the legislature quickly enacted a law forbidding anyone with a criminal offense admission to its’ state universities. James is determined to smash these barriers to his race. He readies himself and with U.S. Marshals surrounding him, he walks to the Lyceum Building to make his first attempt to register at Ole Miss in Oxford.
Ross Barnett, as self-appointed registrar, looks James in the eyes, personally blocks his way and says “No”. They stand a few moments; James looks to the marshals, but they are only there to protect him. They were purposely un-armed. James walks away, with them, and a growing crowd yells out some pretty nasty stuff.
September 20th 1962.
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We at last were seated and though it seemed a long wait, there was only a moment before platters of food were sliding across the twelve foot wooden tables where hungry people showed no hesitation filling their plate. We sat across and watched each move made from fingertips to napkin to goblet to lips to eye to eye. A dissonant voice cut short our gazing as I jerked my body around to see right next to me a tall black man grab another at the collar, raise a fist in the air…….then bite his lip as he dropped the younger man to the floor. People rose up all around but there was no touching – just hard stares. The black man scooped up his books and on the way out spewed out “Pray you were as strong as Mr. James Meredith. God is watchin over him – not you” and threw a copy of the Northeastern News that carried a headline about Ole Miss. It landed right at the side of his head and pages sprayed into the air. Marie grabbed my arm as a couple guys were helping the young man to his feet and he said he was gonna get his black ass. She pulled me harder –
I’ve been here before.