Editorial in the Memphis Commercial Appeal
September 27, 1962
  1. Does the author believe that the U.S. government is justified in intervening in the integration of the University of Mississippi?
  2. Why does the author feel that Mississippi residents should comply with the Supreme Court's ruling?
  3. What is the author's view of Governor Barnett's handling of this matter?

Questions for further discussion:

  1. This editorial notes that some people believe the 14th Amendment of the Constitution was never legally ratified. Research this position and discuss its merits.

Mississippi's Crisis

The State of Mississippi and the Federal Government appear due for a head-on collision over the school desegregation issue. Federal courts all the way to the top have held that Negro James Meredith must be permitted to register as a transfer student at the University of Mississippi. The Governor of Mississippi has said he will go to jail before allowing this to happen, and he has urged other state officials to follow his example or resign.

This is a crisis for Mississippi, a threat to its traditions and mores, and a challenge to the cherished political belief that the Federal Constitution reserves certain rights -- such as education -- to the states. That belief springs from the 10th Amendment to the Constitution. Against the view is the 14th Amendment -- which some say was never legally ratified -- stating: "No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges . . . of citizens of the United States. . . . "

Right or wrong, the Supreme Court has favored the 14th Amendment. Behind its school decisions stands the weight of the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. Attempts to interpose state sovereignty in civil rights matters have consistently failed, both in the past and in recent years. Governor Barnett, however much you may admire his courage, is making what might be the last stand . . . and jeopardizing the splendid image of a great university.

The issue arouses the emotions of the people of both sides. It has disrupted the processes of education in many localities. We can sympathize with the strong feelings of many Mississippians in this crisis. But we hope that in this confrontation they will let reason and temperance prevail, that they will place law and order above the frustrated anger which can lead to violence. It is up to the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning, a constitutional body, to resolve the conflict.

The first-rate education of Southern sons and daughters should be the first consideration. Destruction or impairing of Mississippi's education system would be a tragedy and the real victims would be the young people who so desperately need the training and knowledge to compete in a fast-moving age.

Copyright, The Commercial Appeal, Memphis, TN.
Used here with permission.