The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Celebrate James Meredith’s Courage!

Sep 26, 2022

On September 30, 1962, a black man named James Meredith became the first black person allowed into the University of Mississippi to study for his bachelors degree.

The governor of the state of Mississippi had outright refused the ruling of the Supreme Court that Meredith had a right to enter the university to study. The governor had no trouble whipping up a mob, some armed, to confront Meredith and the U.S. marshals sent in by President Kennedy to enforce the law. The September riots that took place in Oxford, Mississippi 60 years ago left one journalist dead, and thousands of people wounded.

Meredith and every other black person in the South had lived through decades of harassment and worse from white people. This era is now called Jim Crow, during which segregation was enforced throughout the Southern states, as it had been since 1876, when Reconstruction ended. These laws were not only enforced by the political leaders and so-called law enforcement officials, but by the terror carried out by the Ku Klux Klan. Black people in the South faced murder, torture and incarceration, in jails that attempted to kill prisoners by using them to do the work that black slaves had done before the Civil War.

Nor was prejudice, murder and terror limited to the South. Many politicians used prejudice against black people for the purpose of getting elected and bosses used all kinds of prejudice to divide the work force to prevent organizing for better working conditions and pay.

Meredith had grown up in the extremely segregated Mississippi of the 1930s and 40s, and spent nine years in the U.S. military after graduating from high school. Meredith became active in the civil rights movement after he returned home in 1960. After his applications to study at the University of Mississippi were rejected, the NAACP, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, took his case all the way to the Supreme Court. The court finally ruled he had a right to enter the university.

Meredith was one of the heroes of the civil rights movement.