A Mission from God: A Memoir and Challenge for Americaby James Meredith
James Meredith engineered two of the most epic events of the American civil rights era: the desegregation of the University of Mississippi in 1962, which helped open the doors of education to all Americans; and the March Against Fear/i>
“I am not a civil rights hero. I am a warrior, and I am on a mission from God.” —James Meredith
James Meredith engineered two of the most epic events of the American civil rights era: the desegregation of the University of Mississippi in 1962, which helped open the doors of education to all Americans; and the March Against Fear in 1966, which helped open the floodgates of voter registration in the South.
Part memoir, part manifesto, A Mission from God is James Meredith’s look back at his courageous and action-packed life and his challenge to America to address the most critical issue of our day: how to educate and uplift the millions of black and white Americans who remain locked in the chains of poverty by improving our public education system.
Born on a small farm in Mississippi, Meredith returned home in 1960 after nine years in the U.S. Air Force, with a master plan to shatter the system of state terror and white supremacy in America. He waged a fourteen-month legal campaign to force the state of Mississippi to honor his rights as an American citizen and admit him to the University of Mississippi. He fought the case all the way to the Supreme Court and won. Meredith endured months of death threats, daily verbal abuse, and round-the-clock protection from federal marshals and thousands of troops to became the first black graduate of the University of Mississippi in 1963.
In 1966 he was shot by a sniper on the second day of his “Walk Against Fear” to inspire voter registration in Mississippi. Though Meredith never allied with traditional civil rights groups, leaders of civil rights organizations flocked to help him complete the march, one of the last great marches of the civil rights era. Decades later, Meredith says, “Now it is time for our next great mission from God. . . . You and I have a divine responsibility to transform America.”
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Read an Excerpt
“FUCK YOU, NIGGER!”
“You’re gonna die, nigger piece of shit!”
“We’re going to string you up and set you on fire, you fucking nigger!”
It is October 1962.
I am walking across the campus of the University of Mississippi, surrounded by a crowd of screaming young white men.
They are sometimes joined by young white women, freshly scrubbed, lipsticked, and powdered paragons of southern beauty, who run up to me and scream the most filthy combinations of curses you could ever imagine, their faces contorted in paroxysms of rage.
The men surround me in teams by day and spend their nights trying to torment me out of my sleep with noise and threats that continue all night, every night.
I am Public Enemy Number One for every racist in America. I will soon be at the top of a widely circulated “death list” of twelve Americans scheduled for assassination in Mississippi. Death threats are pouring in from across the United States, nearly one thousand so far, many detailing the gruesome ways I will be killed.
Rocks start to fly in my direction, the screaming intensifies, and the crowd surges closer. I am unarmed and wear no protective gear.
But I have no fear, not a molecule of it. The screaming is now a few feet from me, but I hear nothing, only silence. I see no faces. I am traveling in my own world. I am thinking of history, of America’s and my own, of black kings and Indian queens, of vanished ages and empires. I am thinking of generations long dead and far in the future.
I have a slight smile of serenity on my face. I have no fear.
I have no fear because I am a black man in Mississippi and to be so means I am already dead. And a dead man has nothing to fear.
I have no fear because my father sent me on this journey. He guides and inspires my every thought and step. He is invincible, and therefore so am I.
I have no fear because I am an American citizen, heir to a sacred covenant of citizenship bestowed on me by George Washington and the Founding Fathers and Mothers of the nation. Thanks to this covenant, U.S. Army soldiers and federal marshals are traveling right behind me. They are carrying guns. They are supported by a vast arsenal of thousands more guns, jeeps, helicopters, communications gear, and military personnel plugged into the most awesome instrument of physical force the world has ever seen—the American military machine.
I am literally the baddest dude on Planet Earth, more heavily guarded than the president of the United States. I am the biblical David armed with the physical force of thirty thousand Goliaths.
The mob pushes closer. I am serene, completely at peace, focused like a laser on the destination of my journey, a classroom a few hundred yards in the distance.
I am a Zen samurai. I am invincible. Nothing can harm me.
I have been put on Earth for a reason, to restore the power and glory to my bloodline, and to all Americans.
I am not a civil rights activist, I am not a protester, and I am not a pacifist. I am not a Republican and I am not a Democrat. My political affiliation is Black.
I am an American citizen, and a son of Mississippi.
I am a warrior.
And I am on a mission from God.
Meet the Author
James Meredith was born on a small farm in Mississippi in 1933 and served in the United States Air Force for nine years. Meredith risked his life when he successfully applied the laws of integration and became the first black student at the University of Mississippi. He earned a law degree at Columbia University Law School and became an entrepreneur, speaker and conservative activist. He is the author of the critically acclaimed Three Years in Mississippi. Today James Meredith is a tree farmer and grandfather in Jackson, Mississippi, helping to raise his grandchildren.
William Doyle is the award-winning author of Inside the Oval Office: The White House Tapes; An American Insurrection: the Battle of Oxford, Mississippi, 1962; and A Soldier’s Dream: Captain Travis Patriquin and the Awakening of Iraq (Penguin, June 2011). He lives in New York.
William Doyle is the coauthor, with former US Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, of American Gun: A History of the US in Ten Firearms. His other books include A Soldier’s Dream: Captain Travis Patriquin and the Awakening of Iraq, An American Insurrection, Inside the Oval Office, and A Mission from God (with James Meredith). He served as director of original programming for HBO, and he is co-producer of the PBS special Navy SEALs: Their Untold Story.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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We needed this book for historical reasons, it should be required reading in every highschool in the Country. It does lack details about his emotional state during this time, but the details are riveting as he recounts his first day at Olde Miss, and his ongoing struggles as he intergrated the bastion of southern segregation. I could barely put this book down.