Ole Miss, 40 Years Later
Weighing the Impact of a Watershed in Desegregation

more View photos from 1962 and today.

James Meredith heads to class in 1962, with federal officials.
James Meredith heads to class, flanked by federal officials.
Photo: courtesy Library of Congress

Sept. 29, 2002 -- On the 40th anniversary of the desegregation of Ole Miss, NPR presents a series of stories examining the events of that time, what has become of the people involved, and the campus today.

'An American Insurrection'

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On Weekend Edition Sunday, NPR's Liane Hansen talks with author William Doyle about his book, An American Insurrection: The Battle of Oxford, Misssissippi, 1962. The book details black student James Meredith's efforts to enter Ole Miss, and how Army and National Guard troops, called in by President Kennedy, saved the city of Oxford from destruction.

The Ghost of Ole Miss

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Sunday on All Things Considered, NPR's Cheryl Corley looks at the lot of African-Americans at the University of Mississippi today. While most black students there acknowledge their debt to James Meredith -- who risked his life to become the first black student at Ole Miss -- few see themselves as agents of change. Most are interested mainly in earning their degrees.

Corley also talks with Donald Cole, associate provost of multicultural affairs and associate dean of the graduate school at the school, who came to Ole Miss as a student six years after Meredith. Cole was booted from campus after staging a "mild" protest. He went on to earn a doctorate in math from the University of Michigan. Cole does see himself as a change agent, and he tells Molpus why he chose to return.

Day of Rage

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On Monday, NPR's David Molpus reports for Morning Edition on the violence that erupted as Meredith entered campus. The report features the account of Meredith's security guard, a young Army military policeman who was in the jeep that led 650 of the 20,000 soldiers who entered the campus as an armed assembly of segregation opponents blocked their way and attacked the convoy.

Ole Miss Today

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Also on Monday, Molpus and Corley take a look for All Things Considered at Ole Miss today. They talk with current Ole Miss students, professors, and administrators. What do students know about the events of 40 years ago? What are race relations on campus like today? How much have times changed?

James Meredith

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On Tuesday, NPR's Juan Williams reports for Morning Edition on James Meredith. Why did this man, so crucial to the civil rights movement, essentially disappear from public view, and ultimately align himself with conservatives?

Previous Coverage

more iconA Talk of the Nation discussion of the legacy of the desegregation of Ole Miss, and the recent trend toward "resegregation."

Other Resources

more iconOle Miss has a page on Meredith focusing on his writings.

more iconBob Dylan wrote the song "Oxford Town" about the events at Ole Miss. Here are the lyrics and an audio snippet.

more iconThe Library of Congress takes an exhaustive look at civil rights and desegregation in its National Digital Library.

more iconA biography of James Meredith, by the Virtual Scholar.

more iconThe One People's Project presents its case that Meredith is a "rogue" for "selling out" by aligning himself with conservatives.