The Price of Defiance: James Meredith and the Integration of Ole Miss

The Price of Defiance: James Meredith and the Integration of Ole Miss

by Charles W. Eagles
     
 

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When James Meredith enrolled as the first African American student at the University of Mississippi in 1962, the resulting riots produced more casualties than any other clash of the civil rights era. Eagles shows that the violence resulted from the university's and the state's long defiance of the civil rights movement and federal law. Ultimately, the price of such

Overview

When James Meredith enrolled as the first African American student at the University of Mississippi in 1962, the resulting riots produced more casualties than any other clash of the civil rights era. Eagles shows that the violence resulted from the university's and the state's long defiance of the civil rights movement and federal law. Ultimately, the price of such behavior--the price of defiance--was not only the murderous riot that rocked the nation and almost closed the university but also the nation's enduring scorn for Ole Miss and Mississippi. Eagles paints a remarkable portrait of Meredith himself by describing his unusual family background, his personal values, and his service in the U.S. Air Force, all of which prepared him for his experience at Ole Miss.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

University of Mississippi historian Eagles turns a critical eye on his own university in this exhaustive and exhausting look at racism at Ole Miss. Although James Meredith, the school's first black student, figures prominently in the title, he takes center stage only in the book's second half, which examines the opposition to his historic 1962 enrollment. With painstaking research and detail, Eagles explores the university's history, from its founding in 1848 as an alternative to Northern universities, where students might be exposed to abolitionist ideas. Eagles also shows how the foundation for Meredith's enrollment was laid by earlier black applicants, who included Medgar Evers (turned down for the law school in 1954) and a pastor named Clennon King, also rejected and placed in a mental hospital for 12 days following a politically motivated "lunacy hearing" after his rejection. In chapters dense with material from court rulings and memoirs by the parties involved, Eagles traces the legal and political standoff before Meredith's first day on campus and the university's eventual confrontation, with the fatal riot that ensued. Photos. (Aug. 1)

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Library Journal
Both Eagles (history, Univ. of Mississippi) and Lambert (history, Purdue Univ.) chronicle James Meredith's efforts to receive the best education available in his home state by attending the University of Mississippi, where blacks were barred by de facto segregation. After serving in the air force, Meredith returned home in 1961 to seek what many veterans did under the G.I. bill: an education ensuring greater opportunity and a realization of the American dream. As Meredith hoped, the federal government committed (if reluctantly) to a show of support for desegregation by sending the U.S. Army and federalizing the Mississippi National Guard to restrain rioters and allow Meredith to register. Although successful in his quest to earn a degree, Meredith was never able to have what many undergraduate students take for granted, to form friendships with other students or find joy in higher education, because he had to be guarded by marshals and military police. To appreciate Meredith's struggle, one must situate him in the culture of 1960s Mississippi, effectively re-created by Eagles, who details the university's segregated way of life regarding everything from sports to beauty pageants while also meticulously presenting the court proceedings. Lambert's treatment of these events is concise, well paced, and more compressed than Eagles's, and it affords readers a greater emotional distance—interestingly so, because Lambert was a student at Ole Miss at the time. VERDICT While both books are good at portraying Meredith's bravery, academics seeking details on the Deep South of this era will prefer Eagles's title, and those without the time or inclination to delve as far into the complexitiesof 1960s Southern higher education and culture will go for Lambert's. —Jim Hahn, Univ. of Illinois Lib., Urbana
From the Publisher
This now stands as the definitive account of this seminal moment in the struggle for racial equality.—The Historian

Simply put, this is the best study of this dramatic episode we have. . . . An invaluable contribution to our understanding of an important, complex, arguably pivotal moment in American history.—History News Network

Eagles' goal of presenting the wide context of Meredith's fight doesn't prevent him from giving readers a gripping rendition of the events that followed.—Chapter16.org

Eagles places the events of the fall of 1962 in the context of the times. . . . His narrative description of the years leading up to 1960 should be required reading for every Mississippi high school senior. . . . Nuanced, fully researched, comprehensive, and written in a way that conveys the immediacy of the events.—Jackson Free Press

A suitably landmark volume for a deservedly landmark event in the civil rights movement.—Arkansas Review

[A] definitive history of James H. Meredith's 1962 violent integration of the all-white university. . . . Provides a perspective only a dedicated historian can do, tapping deeply into sources, files and unknown documents to bring alive one of the historical civil rights moments of the 20th century.—Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

Well-researched and thoroughly detailed, The Price of Defiance is a valuable study of one [of] the most influential episodes in American Civil Rights history….Well-written and engaging, this piece of modern biography is an accomplishment in the fields of Southern and Civil Rights history." —Southern Historian

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780807895597
Publisher:
The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date:
11/15/2009
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
584
File size:
3 MB

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
The Price of Defiance is indisputably the definitive history of James H. Meredith's historic desegregation of the University of Mississippi in 1962. Eagles's detailed and compelling account of one of the landmark events in the African American freedom struggle is scholarly history of prize-winning quality.—David J. Garrow, University of Cambridge

Meet the Author

Charles W. Eagles has taught history at the University of Mississippi since 1983. His books include Outside Agitator: Jon Daniels and the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama and The Civil Rights Movement in America.

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