Governor Barnett vs. Meredith

It seemed that the state of Mississippi was split up by two different kinds of racists, the mild racists such as John Coleman and rabid racists such as Governor Ross Barnett.  Supporters of Ross Barnett were equally racist judges who upheld the right of the University and denied Meredith twice.

February 4, 1961, after Meredith first attempt to enter the university was unsucessful, an integration scare swept over the state of Mississippi.  Fearing that there would be integration happening at the University of Mississippi, Governor Ross Barnett had sent eight state troopers to the Ole Miss campus.  When Governor Barnett was questioned, he refused to comment.  The attorney general’s office said it did not know what was happening at Ole Miss and the patrolmen that were sent to campus claimed they were only doing a civil defense exercise and/or registering for graduate classes.

After the Court of Appeals approved of Meredith’s entrance to Ole Miss,  Governor Barnett tried passing a law against Meredith that “prohibited any person who was convicted of a state crime from admission to a state school,” because Meredith had been convicted of false voter registration previously.

On September 13, Governor Barnett was determined to stop the court’s decision of integrating the University of Mississippi.  Governor Barnett spoke on live radio and television stating that the people of Mississippi had a choice: either they submitted to the tyranny of the federal government or they acted like men and resisted.  Barnett explained, “Mississippi, as a Sovereign State, has the right under the federal Constitution to determine for itself what the federal Constitution has reserved to it.”

The Kennedy’s continued to fight with an ignorant Governor Barnett over the registration of Meredith until Meredith was successfully entered at the university.

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Timeline of James Meredith

  • Jan. 26, 1961, Ole Miss receives letter from Meredith requesting application
  • Jan. 31, Meredith mails in application stating he is an African-American
  • Feb. 4, Meredith receives telegram denying his registration
  • May 31, Meredith began (NAACP) legal battle against Ole Miss
  • Feb. 3, 1962, Judge Sidney Mize ruled that race was not cause of rejection
  • April 20, Court of Appeals hears case
  • June 25, Judge Wisdom ruled that Ole Miss denied him because of race
  • Sept. 20, Meredith denied at Oxford registration
  • Sept. 30, Meredith is flown into Oxford with 170 marshals.                                                                                                                        ( The following night a violent riot breaks out resulting in two deaths)
  • Oct. 1, Meredith successfully registers for classes
  • August 19, 1963. Meredith recieves his Ole Miss diploma

Literature Review

  • James Meredith was born June 25, 1933 in Kosciusko, Mississippi
  • Meredith says he always felt conscious of his skin color growing up in Mississippi.
  • “Separation dominated my childhood completely,” Meredith quoted once.
  • After graduating from Gibbs High School in June 1951, Meredith wanted to go to college but could not afford it.  He moved to Detroit, MI where his stepbrother and stepsister lived and followed their footsteps and joined the military.
  • Meredith served as staff sergeant in an American airbase outside of Tokyo, Japan
  • Coverage of the Little Rock Crisis was widely covered in Japan
  • Sept. 1957 Meredith spoke with Japanese schoolboy.  The Japanese boy told Meredith he did not know why anyone would go back to Mississippi
  • This incident along with the Little Rock Crisis influenced Meredith
  • Meredith was dishonorably discharged in 1960 and attended the all black Jackson State College to complete a bachelor’s degree in political science
  • Meredith wanted to further his education at a school he felt was the best school in Mississippi, the University of Mississippi

Mississippi papers such the Jackson Daily News and the Meridian Star showed signs of being negative biased as well.  During the Meredith Crisis, Jackson Daily News headlines referenced the federal troops by calling them “government goonsqauds.”  The Meridian Star had headlines reading “Negro Attends Ole Miss at Cost of Two Lives.”

National magazines such as Jet and Time, covered many of their articles through a neutral tone and wereable to give a national perspective.

More than half of Jet’s articles contained commentary from the general public and public officials.  Jet also contained comments from members of the public that shared different opinions on segregation.  However, some of Jet’s articles seemed to lean towards a positive biased of desegregation. For example, one of Jet’s editorial pieces urged President Kennedy to arrest Governor Barnett.  Jet was also advertising ads urging readers to donate to NAACP.

Time covered articles that consisted of commentary from public officials. ( 13 out of 19 sources were quoted from an official/ 68%) Time was able to provide commentary from several of Meredith’s failed attempts while trying to enter the university.  The article also contained a conversation between Governor Barnett and a justice department aide.

Doar: Do you refuse to permit us to come in the door?
Barnett: Yes, sir
Doar: All right, Thank you.
Barnett: I do that politely.
Doar: Thank you. We leave politely

Time was able to give brief descriptions of Meredith’s seventeen-month legal battle for admission against Ole Miss and acknowledged the southern resistance to Brown v. Board of Education.


Introduction

May 17, 1954 changed the education world forever.  Brown v. Board of Education caused a ban of segregated schools with the final decision stating, “Separate education facilities are inherently unequal.”  The ruling in Brown v. Board of Education was a major achievement and has been called “the single most important movement in the decade, the moment that separated the old order from the new and helped to create the tumultuous era just arriving.” However, it was not a complete victory.  After the case, there was no indication of when desegregation was to be achieved.

On the morning of September 4, nine African-American students were supposed to desegregate Central High School, located in Little Rock, Arkansas.  Elizabeth Eckford, one of the nine students, had not been informed that the group would meet somewhere that morning and enter the school together.  Eckford walked towards Central High School alone and was awaited by an angry white mob.  As she neared the school, Eckford was receiving angry shouts and was met the rifles of Arkansas National Guard who denied her entrance at the high school.

The following weeks of Little Rock were covered throughout the world.  James Meredith, who was serving the air force outside Tokyo, Japan, heard the incidents going on in Little Rock.  The Little Rock Crisis influenced Meredith to want break the system of white supremacy and create a better society.

Even though Mississippi had the highest rate of black population in 1960, desegregation came very late in the state.  Before Meredith’s enrollment at the University of Mississippi in 1962, the south had been struggling with school segregation issues for nearly two decades.  As of 1960, none of the Mississippi public universities had been desegregated.

The purpose is to examine how The Hattiesburg American located in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, covered James Meredith enrolling at the University of Mississippi.  There will be a look into the important landmarks that lead up to entry of James Meredith and if The Hattiesburg American covered the events fairly.  This paper will discuss if The Hattiesburg American showed signs of being biased, whether it was towards or against the segregation of Ole Miss.  The newspaper articles will be reviewed by a standard codebook used by two coders.

It is important to know how the state of Mississippi handled the situation.  People’s mindsets were quite different than what they are now.  Desegregating schools was a worry for many of the whites in Mississippi.  Mississippians showed their ignorance and their strength with the enrollment of Meredith.

To have an understanding of the issues and opinions surrounding James Meredith is important because it shows the way he was able to shape and affect the education system in the state of Mississippi.