Ever since I was fifteen years old I have been consciously aware that I am a Negro... but until I was fifteen I did not know that my group was supposed to be the inferior one. Since then I have felt a personal responsibility to change the status of my group.
Three Years in Mississippi
In January of 1961, James Meredith applied to the University of Mississippi. Up to that point, Ole Miss had been a whites only school.
This section explores Meredith's personal and political reasons for applying to the University of Mississippi. Through these letters, you will be able to gain insight into the personality of James Meredith and the values and beliefs that prompted him to apply to Ole Miss.
- January 21
- James Meredith requests application from the Registrar at the University of Mississippi ("Ole Miss").
- Meredith's request for an application
- January 26
- Letter to Meredith from the Registrar, Robert B. Ellis
- Meredith's letter to Thurgood Marshall
- January 31
- Meredith submits application for admission to Ole Miss.
- Meredith's letter to Robert B. Ellis
- February 4
- Ole Miss Registrar sends telegram to Meredith saying that his application was received too late for consideration.
- Registrar's telegram to Meredith
- February 7
- Meredith's letter to the U.S. Justice Department
- May 25
- Ole Miss Registrar formally rejects Meredith's application.
- May 31
- NAACP and Meredith take case to court.
- June 8
- Deposition of James Meredith
- June 12
- Hearing in Biloxi, Mississippi
- January 24
- Trial begins in Federal District Court of Judge Sidney C. Mize.
- February 3
- Judge Mize finds that Meredith has failed to prove that the University had a policy of denying admission to Negro applicants.
- June 11
- Criminal charges instituted against Meredith in Hinds County for false voter registration application, based on the claim that Meredith had registered as a resident of Hinds County when he was, in fact, a resident of Attala County.
- June 13
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit rejects charge as "frivolous" and prohibits the criminal proceeding against Meredith.
- June 25
- Fifth Circuit Court finds that Meredith has been rejected solely because of race; Mize decision reversed.
- starting July 18 - through August
- Legal maneuverings with the Fifth Circuit Court's orders "stayed" by Judge B.F. Cameron, a dedicated segregationist who was a member of the Court but did not sit on the case, and the other justices on the Court issuing orders "vacating" Cameron's stays.
- August 31
- Justice Dept. submits memo to Supreme Court (first Kennedy Administration action in case) asking Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black to set aside Cameron's stays.
- September 10
- Justice Black sets aside stays and orders Meredith admitted.
- September 13
- Judge Mize issues injunction to University of Mississippi not to block Meredith's admission.
- Mississippi Governor Barnett, via statewide TV and radio states, "We will not surrender to the evil and illegal forces of tyranny."
- September 15
- Attorney General Robert Kennedy calls Governor Barnett to work out details of Meredith's admission.
- September 20
- Meredith tried in absentia for false voter registration, convicted and sentenced to one year and $100. Charge involves "moral turpitude."
- The Mississippi legislature passes a bill prohibiting enrollment at any institution of higher learning of students who have been convicted of criminal charges involving moral turpitude.
- Mississippi Board of Trustees for Ole Miss gives Governor Barnett full powers as Registrar.
- Meredith makes a first attempt to register at Ole Miss campus in Oxford. Governor Barnett personally blocks his way.
- September 24
- Court of Appeals says that the Board and officials are in contempt, but withholds judgment when they agree to register Meredith.
September 1962 (Part 2)
- September 25
- Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals issues a restraining order against Governor Barnett telling him not to interfere with Meredith's registration.
- Governor Barnett blocks Meredith's entry to College Board office in second attempt to register. Court of Appeals orders Barnett to show cause on September 28 why he should not be held in contempt.
- September 27
- Governor Barnett proposes face-saving plan to Attorney General Robert Kennedy (through Tom Watkins) -- if U.S. Marshals draw guns on Barnett, he will step aside.
- Governor Barnett reports to Attorney General Robert Kennedy that he can't handle crowd. Face-saving plan is called off; Meredith convoy turned back to Memphis.
- September 28
- Governor Barnett found guilty of civil contempt and ordered by Court of Appeals to clear himself or face arrest and fine of $10,000 per day.
- September 29
- President Kennedy issues proclamation calling on government and people of Mississippi to "cease and desist" all their obstructing actions and to "disperse and retire peaceably forthwith." Court of Appeals declares Lieutenant Governor Johnson in contempt and orders fine of $5,000 a day unless he obeys the Court's desegregation orders.
September 1962 (Part 3)
- September 30
- President Kennedy federalizes the Mississippi National Guard. U.S. Army troops dispatched to Memphis by President Kennedy to stand in reserve in the event they are needed.
- Governor Barnett calls Attorney General Robert Kennedy urging him to postpone Meredith's arrival. Attorney General Kennedy refuses, threatens to expose Barnett's broken promise on secret registration of Meredith. Barnett says to fly Meredith in this afternoon and say nothing about deal (two more phone calls over next couple of hours confirm the arrangements). Barnett states that Mississippi Highway patrol will cooperate.
- October 1
- U.S Army Soldiers arrive at Lyceum Hall.
- U.S. Justice DepartmentAttorney John Doar escorts Meredith to Lyceum Hall to register.
- September 5
- James Meredith writes a letter to Robert F. Kennedy upon his graduation from the University of Mississippi.