Battle of ole miss essay

The lead vehicle of our convoy crashed through the barricade that the mob had erected on the bridge at the eastern entrance of the campus, and the remaining vehicles followed, one after another speeding past the Confederate monument, past the burning vehicles and the jeering mob, to come to a stop directly in front of the Lyceum. There we unloaded from our vehicles, quickly organized ourselves in single file, and marched through tear gas and darkness toward the rioting mob.

Though at the time I was too frightened and preoccupied with immediate concerns to think much about the significance of the events, in retrospect I realized that the moment in which I climbed down from that military vehicle, strapped on my gas mask, adjusted my steel helmet, and walked with loaded rifle at fixed bayonet toward that angry mob, I had crossed the boundary of the Mississippi that had nurtured me and entered a strange, new world. In that new world, of course, the James Merediths would have, must have, a considerable voice and role. For many whites and, we should not forget, even some blacks the terror of having to adjust to that new world was so immense as to be almost unthinkable.

Such, at least, seems part of the explanation for the hysteria and violence I witnessed that terrible night in Oxford. Other Mississippians, however, felt less threatened by the new order, were more willing to leave the old traditions behind. In the succeeding months I found myself more and more belonging to this second group. Army was both brief and non-eventful. The day after the riot, after guardsmen and a number of regular-duty troops had cleared the rioters from the campus, arresting huge numbers of them and restraining them temporarily within the fenced grounds of the Oxford National Guard armory, the Mississippi guardsmen were replaced by huge numbers of full-time military policemen, who were now assigned the responsibility of securing the campus and safeguarding it from further unrest.

Certainly President Kennedy wanted to demonstrate to the entire South the length to which the federal government would go to enforce court-ordered school desegregation, but generally overlooked in the histories of this event is the fact that the mobilization of troops at Ole Miss coincided with the developing Cuban missile crisis. Sending huge numbers of troops to Ole Miss would certainly send a message to segregationists, but it would also strategically position troops in a manner that might not unduly alarm or provoke the Soviet Union.

In any event, the arrival of such large numbers of federal troops rendered the further services of the Mississippi guardsmen unnecessary, and within ten days I found myself again a student, though this time at a University of Mississippi that had been drastically and irrevocably changed from what it formerly was. The reason for that change was the daily presence of James Meredith.

Except for a few professors like James Silver and Russell Barrett who were well known for their liberal political views, and of course the federal marshals who guarded him constantly until his graduation the following August, I know of no whites who developed a close friendship with Meredith while he was at Ole Miss. Meredith acknowledges in his book, Three Years in Mississippi, that a surprising number of students were cordial and friendly when he met them in classes, in the dormitory, or on campus; but even he recognized that the danger of his situation, in that time and place, discouraged all except the bravest or the most foolhardy from seeking his friendship.

One day I found myself playing golf just ahead of Meredith on the campus course. Ordinarily I would have lingered at the next tee and asked the player following to join me for a twosome, but on this day there were two Army helicopters hovering overhead, a couple of soldiers with high-powered rifles standing at the top railing of the football stadium that overlooked the course, other soldiers with guns scattered throughout the woods lining the fairways, and two federal marshals striding alongside Meredith with every step he took.

The 'white' student who integrated Ole Miss - CNN

Such conditions were hardly conducive to either friendly overtures or an enjoyable game of golf. I hastily finished my round, actually skipping the last few holes, and headed for the clubhouse. Another time I stood behind him as he collected his mail at the campus post office.

It was delivered to him, as campus rumor reported that it always was, in a pasteboard box which, I could tell, contained dozens of letters, many of which, I felt sure, were from well-wishers and supporters around the country but some of which, I felt equally sure, were from hate mongers and bigots communicating threats of reprisal or death.

The segregationists on campus insisted that many of the letters contained money, and that it was primarily the desire for profit that led Meredith to the Ole Miss campus. Never before or since has my reading and formal education been so highly charged with relevance to existential experience. It seemed that everything I read or studied was given heightened significance and meaning.


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Savage as not altogether unlike the National Guard of which I was still a part. Fiction, it seemed, was in the process of becoming fact. But Faulkner was not the only great Mississippi author that Dr. Pilkington had us read. We also read Richard Wright, and his novel Native Son provided another corrective lens through which I could view the day-to-day events now unfolding at Ole Miss.

In Native Son I read, at first disbelieving, of the pent-up frustration and resentment and rage that eventually, inevitably exploded into hatred and violence toward the oppressing whites. Rather, it was that brief scene early in the novel in which Bigger and Gus watch a plane fly overhead and fantasize about being pilots themselves. In reading Native Son I was reminded that I had never met, in my Mississippi childhood and adolescence, a Bigger Thomas or a Richard Wright—that is, an openly militant black who was fed up with the old system and refused to accept it any longer.

But now just such a black had pushed his way into the same space that I occupied, demanding his equal share of that space. And so it continued for an entire year. It seemed that my participation in the enforced integration of Ole Miss and the physical proximity of James Meredith throughout the school year affected almost everything I did, said, or thought.

It was as though somehow the principle and condition of being Negro had wedged its way into my life and consciousness, indeed into my very soul, in a way that it never had before, despite my growing up in the South, altering forever my view of race, democracy, justice, and the world.

Racism in College Football

As I reflect on these matters now, it is quite startling, and perhaps as significant, that my three years of full-time graduate study at Ole Miss began and ended with a racial disturbance. The second event occurred in the spring of Like many other students that spring, I eagerly awaited the convening of the annual meeting of the Southern Literary Festival, set for April on the Ole Miss campus.

The festival program, organized by Ole Miss professors Evans Harrington and Gerald Walton, had been planned as a tribute to William Faulkner, and Robert Penn Warren was one of the literary figures who had been enlisted to lead the celebration. But I had a special reason for excitement which went beyond my interest in Faulkner and Southern literature: I had been asked by the festival coordinators to serve as escort for Warren during his stay on the campus.

Little did I know that I was about to become a backstage observer of a mini-drama in which Warren would be caught on the horns of a dilemma created by the racial tensions that permeated the Ole Miss campus at that time. Even in Ole Miss was still experiencing the aftershock of the violent confrontation that had accompanied the enrollment of James Meredith.

Essay about The Battle of Ole Miss

Although this group had earlier in the day registered for the conference sessions, visited the Student Union, and eaten in the university cafeteria without serious incident, on Thursday night a crowd of about persons gathered near Hill Dormitory, where the three Tougaloo males were housed, and began chanting segregationist slogans. The late-night demonstration lasted for more than an hour, during which time the rented vehicle being used by the Tougaloo delegates had its windows smashed, its tires deflated, and its gas tank filled with sugar.

A racial epithet was painted in orange lettering on the side of the auto. Not until the Dean of Students and Campus Security forces arrived and started taking the names of the protesters did the mob disband. Many students, myself included, did not know about the disturbance until the following morning, when both the campus and the city of Oxford were buzzing with accounts and rumors of the incident. Warren also learned about the occurrence the next morning; and throughout the remainder of that day he followed the aftermath of the incident with concerned interest and even alarm. George Owens, the black president of Tougaloo College, drove to Ole Miss to accompany his professor and students back home.

On the two or three occasions that I was with Warren on Friday morning and afternoon he was noticeably agitated about the developments. More than once he wondered aloud whether, in view of what had transpired, it would be appropriate for him to stay to complete his role in the program. My distinct impression was that Warren was not so much seeking advice as he was thinking out loud, weighing the pros and cons of the matter. It was obvious that he was genuinely concerned about the physical well-being and the constitutional rights of the Tougaloo delegation.

It would also, ironically but powerfully, serve as an editorial on the events of the night before. The questions that Warren, along with other observers, kept coming back to throughout the day were whether the incident on Thursday night had presented any real threat to the Tougaloo delegation and, consequently, whether the walkout represented a legitimate response to actual danger or, as some claimed, was merely a media event designed to gain more publicity for the civil rights movement.

In his conversations with me and others Warren appeared to be genuinely outraged at the treatment of the Tougaloo delegation. After fighting a protracted legal battle, James Meredith broke the color barrier in as the first African American student to enroll at the University of Mississippi. The riot that followed his arrival on campus seriously wounded scores of U.

Ole Miss Football 2018 Position Previews: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

To restore order, the Kennedy administration dispatched thousands of soldiers to Oxford. Table of Contents. Cover Download Save. Contents Download Save. Introduction pp. PART 1. Ole Miss and Race pp.

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Essay: 'Your Heritage is Hate', Take Down The State Flag at Ole Miss

Following Community Mores: J. Williams and Postwar Race Relations pp. Integration and Insanity: Clennon King in pp. PART 2. James Meredith pp. The Making of a Militant Conservative—J. Meredith pp. Meredith v. Negotiations: A Game of Checkers pp. PART 3. A Fortress of Segregation Falls pp.