Lord’s history of the 1962 Ole Miss riots, sparked by one man’s heroic stance against segregation in the American South
On September 30, 1962, James H. Meredith matriculated at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. An air force veteran with sixty hours of transfer credits, Meredith would have been welcomed were it not for the color of his skin. As the first African-American student to register at a previously segregated school, however, he risked his life. The Supreme Court had determined that Oxford’s university must desegregate, and several hundred federal marshals came to support Meredith. It would not be enough. As President Kennedy called for peace, a riot exploded in Oxford. By eleven o’clock that night, the marshals were out of tear gas. By midnight, the highway patrol had pulled out, gunfire was spreading, and Kennedy was forced to send in the army.
In this definitive history, Walter Lord argues that the riot was not an isolated incident, but a manifestation of racial hatred that was wrapped up in the state’s identity, stretching all the way back to the Civil War.