James Meredith facts for kids

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James Meredith
James Meredith.jpg
James Meredith in 1962
Born
James Howard Meredith

June 25, 1933 (1933-06-25) (age 85)
Education University of Mississippi; Columbia Law School, LL.B.
Known for becoming the first black student at the University of Mississippi

James Howard Meredith (born June 25, 1933) is a Civil Rights Movement figure, writer, political adviser and Air Force veteran. In 1962, he became the first African-American student admitted to the segregated University of Mississippi, after the intervention of the federal government, an event that was a major point in the Civil Rights Movement. Inspired by President John F. Kennedy's inaugural address, Meredith decided to exercise his constitutional rights and apply to the University of Mississippi. His goal was to put pressure on the Kennedy administration to enforce civil rights for African Americans.

He was born in Kosciusko, Mississippi of Native American (Choctaw) and African American heritage. Meredith enlisted in the United States Air Force right out of high school and served from 1951 to 1960. He then attended Jackson State College for two years.

On October 1st, 1962, he became the first black student at the University of Mississippi after being barred from entering on September 20. His enrollment, opposed by Governor Ross Barnett, required federal troops and U.S. Marshals, sent by President John F. Kennedy, to enforce safety. He graduated on August 18, 1963.

After his time at the University of Mississippi, Meredith continued his education at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria (1964-65) and at Columbia University (1966-68). He received an LL.B (law degree) from Columbia University in 1968.

James Meredith views himself as an individual American citizen who demanded and got the rights properly extended to any American, he ceased being a civil rights activist in the late 1960s and found employment as a stockbroker.

Legacy and honors

  • In 2002 the University of Mississippi honored the 40th anniversary of Meredith's admission with numerous events. A statue of him was installed on campus in his honor.
  • In 2012 the University commemorated the 50th anniversary of the historic admission, featuring a range of speakers, artists, lectures and events during the year.
  • That year Meredith received the Harvard Graduate School of Education 'Medal for Education Impact', it was the first award in 50 years he had accepted.

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