By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – James Meredith was honored Friday with a Mississippi Freedom Trail marker near the University of Mississippi Lyceum.
This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the deadly riot that surrounded the Kosciusko native’s admission as Ole Miss’ first black student. The marker’s unveiling is one of many events highlighting that history.
“We celebrate the courage of James Meredith and many others like him who came behind him here and suffered difficult days on this campus,” said Ole Miss Chancellor Dan Jones. “We also commemorate that it was a difficult time, that there was a long period of injustice, that injustice was a part of life in this state and in this country.”
The front of the Meredith marker briefly summarizes the events of Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, 1962, in traditional cast-bronze lettering. The other side, with high-definition graphics printed on long-life vinyl, relates earlier unsuccessful attempts by Medgar Evers and Clennon King to break the color barrier at Ole Miss, more details of Meredith’s entry and notes on riot-related heroics and casualties. It also offers portraits of all three men, along with photos of the riots, the military response and Meredith’s entry as well as his graduation.
Ward Emling, who oversees the Freedom Trail initiative, noted the first five sites on the Trail were unveiled last year as part of 2011’s Freedom Riders 50th anniversary remembrance:
* Bryant’s Grocery in Money, where Emmett Till’s murder began.
* Medgar Evers’ Jackson home, where he was assassinated.
* The Jackson Greyhound Bus Station, where the Freedom Riders were arrested upon their arrival.
* The Ruleville home of Fannie Lou Hamer, a sharecropper who challenged the all-white status of the Democratic Party.
* Parchman Penitentiary, where many civil rights workers were unjustly imprisoned.
Emling said the importance of each heritage site transcends attracting visitors.
“This marker, this trail, is very important for us, certainly not just from a tourism standpoint, but from an education standpoint, from a commemoration standpoint,” he said.