THE BATTLE OF OLE MISS AS IT RELATES TO THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN EXPERIENCE AND AMERICAN HISTORY
A TERM PAPER SUBMITTED TO PROFESSOR K.R.V. HENINGBURG
DEPARTMENT OF HISTORY
BY MONA SALIMI
SACRAMENTO, CA 19 APRIL 2010
James Meredith’s successful campaign to gain admission to the Univeristy of Mississippi, ‘Ole Miss’, and desegregate education in the state most resistant to integration of educational institutions, has become a crucial episode in civil rights history. Ole Miss transformed Mississippi politics and contributed to a cultural shift in the region, as well as invigorated local civil rights activists and those in neighboring states 1. The historic showdown between James Meredith and the University of Mississippi gives perspective on the place of African-Americans in U.S. society in the 20th century; breaking down the multi-layered narrative of “the Battle of Ole Miss” sheds light on the social, political, and economic forces that shaped and interacted with the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.
The civil rights movement, which increased in size during WWII (NAACP membership grew from 50,000 to 500,000) gained momentum in 1954 with the Supreme Court Case of Brown v. Board of Education, in which the Court ruled that segregation of schools was unconstitutional2. By 1956 Maryland, Kentucky, Delaware, Oklahoma and Missouri had moved to desegregate their schools, but for Southern white Americans for whom white supremacy (which segregation upheld) was deeply embedded in cultural values and social conventions, integration was a non-option3. Many Southern whites regarded it as the Second Reconstruction. In Mississippi officials responded with a plan to “equalize” schools, the legislature created the State Soverignty Commission,
Frank Lambert, The Battle of Ole Miss: Civil Rights V. States' Rights (Oxford: Oxford University Press, USA, 2010), page 163-166. 2Faragher, John Mack. Out of many: a history of the