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Eyes on the Prize
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The Supreme Court Orders Ole Miss to Integrate (1962)

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James Meredith, Oxford, Mississippi, 1962.

In 1954, in Brown v. Board of Education, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the integration of public schools. The landmark decision ended an era of "separate but equal" treatment of African Americans that in practice had proven anything but equal. Yet Southern states defied the court's decision. In Mississippi, Medgar Evers and other African American applicants were denied admission to the University of Mississippi, known as Ole Miss. In January 1961, James Howard Meredith, a nine-year Air Force veteran and student at Jackson State College, applied for admission to Ole Miss. When his application was returned, he took his case to court with the help of an NAACP legal team. The issue ended up before the Supreme Court, which ruled that Meredith should be allowed to attend the state-funded school. With the support of angry mobs of white Mississippians, Governor Ross Barnett did everything he could to prevent Meredith from enrolling, although his efforts were ultimately futile. Hatred directed toward Meredith as a symbol of integration would lead a white man from Memphis to shoot and wound the activist during his 1966 "march against fear."

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