Letter from James Meredith to Thurgood Marshall
January 29, 1961
  1. In the last paragraph of his letter Meredith outlines his reasons, in order of importance, for applying to Ole Miss. Why do you think he has put his country before his race?
  2. What does Meredith mean when he says that his "long cherished ambition has been to break the monopoly on rights and privileges held by the whites of the state of Mississippi"?
  3. If you were Thurgood Marshall, would you feel confident that Meredith is the right person to desegregate the University of Mississippi? Why or why not?

Questions for further discussion:

  1. Why is Meredith appealing to Thurgood Marshall?
  2. What is the role of the Legal Defense and Education Fund in Meredith's case?

January 29th, 1961

Mr. Thurgood Marshall
Legal Defense and Educational Fund

Dear Sir:

I am submitting an application for admission to the University of Mississippi. I am seeking entrance for the second semester which begins the 6th of February, 1961. I anticipate encountering some type of difficulty with the various agencies here in the state which are against my gaining entrance in the school. I discussed this matter with Mr. Evers, the Mississippi Field Secretary for the NAACP, and he suggested that I contact you and request legal assistance from your organization in the event it is needed for I am not financially able to fight a legal battle against the state of Mississippi. I hope your decision on this request will be favorable. Below is a brief history of my background which might help you in reaching a decision.

I am a native Mississippian. All my elementary and secondary education was received in this state, except my last year of high school, which was completed in Florida. I spent nine years in the United States Air Force (1951-60), all of which were honorable. I have always been a "conscientious objector" to my "oppressed status" as long as I can remember. My long-cherished ambition has been to break the monopoly on rights and privileges held by the whites of the state of Mississippi.

My academic qualifications, I believe, are adequate. While in the Air Force, I successfully completed courses at four different schools conducting night classes. As an example, I completed 34 semester hours of work with the University of Maryland's Overseas Program. Of the twelve courses completed I made three A's and nine B's. I am presently enrolled at Jackson State College, here in Jackson. I have completed one quarter of work and I am now enrolled in a second quarter at Jackson. For the work completed I received one A, three B's and one C.

Finally, I am making this move in what I consider the interest of and for the benefit of: (1) my country, (2) my race, (3) my family, and (4) myself. I am familiar with the probable difficulties involved in such a move as I am undertaking and I am fully prepared to pursue it all the way to a degree from the University of Mississippi.

Sincerely yours,


James Meredith, Three Years in Mississippi, 1966, p. 55-56.