December 10, 2020 in Culture

Black People

An American Insurrection 


The 1960s is the period of the American history, which is known as the time of civil right movements. The black population of the United States rose to announce about equal rights for black people in the American society. During this time, many African Americans demanded to give them the same rights and opportunities that the white people had. Some members of the white population supported such ideas, while others were totally against such changes. Ole Miss is one of many examples when one man challenged the system and stood for his rights till the end. James Meredith was an African American veteran who wanted to enter the University of Mississippi. Some of the states had already accepted the idea of equality between blacks and whites, but the southern states, such as Mississippi, were against such changes and did not want to see the blacks studying together with white students. Meredith s actions were motivated not only by his desire to become a student of a good university. If he succeeded, it would mean that any black person could do the same. In fact, it would become the real end of segregation. Ole Miss is an example when the will of one man is able to change lives of hundreds of thousands of people and bring changes that are necessary in the right place and at the right time. Therefore, it is reasonable to examine the case of Ole Miss in order to fully understand the situation that had place that time.

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Meredith s Struggle

James Meredith was inspired by President John F. Kennedy and the civil right movement that took place at that time. In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that segregation at school was unconstitutional. Hence, there was no more school division into those that were only for white or black students. The University of Mississippi was one of the elite educational institutions that accepted only white students for many years. However, even after the adoption of the anti-segregation act in 1954, this university refused to admit Meredith as a student. James Meredith graduated from Jackson State University where he had good grades and all chances to become a student of the University of Mississippi. Nevertheless, the only barrier between this desire and the reality was race, but not grades.

During the 1950-1960s, Mississippi was one of the most stubborn states that refused the idea of equality between white and black people. All civil right movements in the 1960s faced the biggest opposition in southern states, especially in Mississippi. The opposition to integration was so fierce in Mississippi because this state, as well as many other southern states, was on the side of the Confederates during the Civil War in America. The Confederate States of America consisted of 7 states, which were for slavery. They used black slaves as the main labor force, which provided the major profit for Mississippi. The abolishment of slavery meant rough times for the white population of Mississippi who lived primarily by exploitation of the blacks. Thus, it was the reason for the war between the Confederate States of America and the United States of America. Despite the fact that the Confederates were defeated and the slavery was totally abolished, the idea of division of people into white and black was very strong in the southern states. They could admit changes followed after the Civil War, but all civil right movements were accepted with fierce resistance and violence. Hence, Meredith s desire to enter the University of Mississippi that was only for whites was accepted as a challenge to the old traditions of the state that still supported ideas of the Confederate past.

The biggest challenge that James Meredith faced in Mississippi was the reaction of the state authorities. One of the biggest opposites of Meredith s ideas was Ross Barnett, the governor of Mississippi of that time. He was against desegregation and took all possible measures to stop the civil right movements in his state. Ole Miss was not the first time Ross Barnett acted against anti-racist movements. In 1961, he gave an order to arrest the Freedom Riders and imprisoned them at Parchman Farm. His intentions were quite clear though he tried to hide them and introduce as the constitutional ones. Barnett could not accept the idea that black people would receive the same opportunities as the whites. He even cited Bible, saying that the Lord had segregated all people as black people lived in Africa and white people lived in America. The high percentage of black people in Mississippi thus indicates that they have accepted the way of living of white people and segregation. As one can see, Barnett rejected the idea of equal civil rights for blacks and whites and did everything he could to stop this process in his state.

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President John F. Kennedy supported Meredith and sent U.S. Marshalls to protect him. The president was afraid that the federal forces could lead to a mini civil war between protestors and militaries. Thus, he wanted to avoid the clash between demonstrators and military forces. President Kennedy chose the most appropriate decision that could be made in that situation. On the one hand, he demonstrated that the U.S. government supported Meredith and the idea of equal rights for black and white people. On the other hand, he did not use military force to stop armed demonstrators. Hence, President Kennedy obeyed the golden middle strategy where he supported Meredith and did not betray the ideas of democracy. Thus, if I were a president, I would act in the same way since it was the most optimal decision under those conditions.

Besides, Meredith faced one more challenge. Former general Walker leaded a group of students who attacked the U.S. marshals while they were escorting Meredith to the University of Mississippi. Edwin Walker was the U.S. general who participated in the World War II and was honored with numerous medals. However, he was often criticized by the U.S. government for his own views on political line in the United States. His actions became the point of an open protest with weapons against supporters of Meredith and the U.S. government, which judged racist movements.

As a result, on September 30, supporters of the idea of segregation started a fire against Meredith and his followers. The role of Mississippi National Guard consisted in protecting Meredith and establishing order in the state. In fact, they were the legal non-violence measure of force that President Kennedy could use. As it was mentioned above, Kennedy did not want to use federal forces in order to prevent escalation of the conflict. Thus, the Mississippi National Guard became the shield and the weapon against protesters in Mississippi, which meant the usage of minimal violence in the state to achieve establishment of order.

I believe that James Meredith could not have been admitted to Ole Miss without violence. The Civil Right Movements were on its top, but Mississippi as well as other former Confederate states still had a strong connection with its initiatives of the past. Viewing black population as the second rate people formed the idea that a black man, even if he was intelligent, could not study in the university together with white students. Thus, Merediths desire to enter the university was viewed as an attempt to break old traditions and rebalance of the society in the state. If one could do it, all blacks would like to do the same. According to this fact, the non-violent protest against Meredith was a priori impossible.

The Ole Miss event demonstrated that changes were a part of life. Those who were not able to admit the new way of living would always try to restore the old traditions, which had already become a remnant of the past times. This historical event teaches a lesson that those who long to develop the society will succeed, while those who hold on to the past will fail.

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As a conclusion, it can be said that, despite all challenges and pressure, Meredith achieved his goal. He demonstrated that a strong will and the desire of justice are able to change the world. His protest against widespread stereotypes ruined the barrier that had existed for many years between white and black populations of America. The abolishment of slavery was the first step, but it took almost a hundred years till black people could really receive the same rights as the whites had and could proudly call themselves free citizens of the free country. James Meredith was one of those African Americans who wanted a better life for his people and who was not afraid to stand alone in a fight against the system s stereotypes. His strived for changes and had a strong desire to live a better life, which made the president assist him in this battle. As a result, due to enormous efforts and the unbreakable belief in justice and equality for everybody, Meredith won the right to become a student of the University of Mississippi. This example shows that even one man is able to change life if he knows that he does a right thing.

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