by Robert Hamblin
It’s always a useful exercise for any individual to examine strongly held beliefs to seek to understand how he came to hold them. And for some of us it’s equally important to attempt to record this process of self-discovery in writing. That’s what I seek to do in this essay with regard to my retrospective impressions of two events from my graduate school days at Ole Miss: the riot that accompanied the admission of James Meredith to the university in 1962 and the near-riot that occurred when a biracial delegation from Tougaloo College attended the Southern Literary Festival at Ole Miss in 1965.
In September 1962 I enrolled as a first-year graduate student at the University of Mississippi. As coincidence would have it, that was also the month and year that James Meredith succeeded in becoming the first African-American student in the school’s history. Meredith, a 29-year-old Air Force veteran who had completed three years of college, had first sought admission to Ole Miss in January 1961, but was denied entrance, as the U.S. Court of Appeals later concluded, “solely because he was a Negro.” Only after an eighteen-month court battle which led to contempt citations against a number of state officials and university administrators was Meredith allowed to enroll at Ole Miss. (more…)