NPR had a couple of interesting items yesterday to commemorate the 50th anniversary of James Meredith enrolling at the University of Mississippi (popularly referred to as ‘Ole Miss’), a landmark event in breaking the segregation barrier in the south. He had to do so in the teeth of widespread opposition that went all the way up to the governor and that led to riots and deaths.
What happened in 1962 is described here. It is more moving to listen to the audio, since it contains archival recordings of president Kennedy talking on the phone with the governor.
The second item looks at what the climate is like now at the university and how current students view those past events. It also reveals the surprising origins of the name ‘Ole Miss’ which is not what is the most obvious guess.
In listening to the items, I found it hard to imagine that this kind of thing actually took place in my lifetime. On the other hand, it is also encouraging that within my lifetime we have made such advances in overcoming racial prejudices, though there is clearly a long way to go.