Meredith’s lessons remain today

Published 12:08am Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Monday marked another Mississippi memory that had its nightmarish moments.

Fifty years ago a young black man sought to attend the state’s most prestigious university and in doing so set off deadly riots.

Many people in power at the time, including Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett, opposed James Meredith’s enrollment into the previously segregated University of Mississippi.

When federal officials forced Mississippi’s hand, all hell broke loose because a young man wanted to gain an education and he had black skin.

Today, it’s almost unfathomable to think about how much anger and hatred existed then, but in 1962, lives were lost in the fight for rights, not merely civil rights, but American rights.

The events leading up to Meredith’s ultimately successful enrollment on Oct. 1, 1962, are shameful marks in the annals of Mississippi history, but should never be forgotten.

Barnett and others took the position that Mississippi should be allowed to play by its own rules.

They were wrong.

Clearly a state has the right to do as it pleases so long as its actions don’t violate federal law.

None of us has to agree with every law, but we must abide by all of them.

In 1962, Mississippi and most of its leaders were obstinate, ignoring the fact that we’re a nation governed by laws.

Emotion and the desire to have their own way forced common sense to give way to hate and divisiveness.

Fortunately, the order of law was restored and through brute force subsided the mob mentality on the university campus.

Much has changed since 1962, but we must never forget how easily and quickly citizens — and some state leaders — began to feel above the law.

 

torn