- NAME: James Meredith
- OCCUPATION: Civil Rights Activist
- BIRTH DATE: June 25, 1933 (Age: 79)
- EDUCATION: Jackson State College, University of Mississippi, University of Ibadan (Nigeria), Columbia University
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Kosciusko, Mississippi
- AKA: James Meredith
- Full Name: James Howard Meredith
- AKA: James H. Meredith
- ZODIAC SIGN: Cancer
Best Known For
James Meredith is a civil rights activist who became the first African American to attend the University of Mississippi in 1962.
Think you know about Biography?
Answer questions and see how you rank against other players.Play Now
Born in Mississippi in 1933, James Meredith was raised on a farm with nine siblings. He joined the military after high school and attended an all-black college before becoming the first black student at the University of Mississippi in 1962. After he graduated, he earned a law degree and became involved in politics. He continues to be active in civil rights and lives in Jackson, Mississippi.
Born in Kosciusko, Mississippi, on June 25, 1933, James Howard Meredith was raised on a farm with nine brothers and sisters, largely insulated from the racism of the time. His first experience with institutionalized racism occurred while riding a train from Chicago with his brother. When the train arrived in Memphis, Tennessee, Meredith was ordered to give up his seat and move to the crowded black section of the train, where he had to stand for the rest of his trip home. He vowed then that he would dedicate his life ensuring equal treatment for African Americans.
After high school, Meredith spent nine years in the Army Air Force before enrolling in Jackson State College—an all-black school—in Mississippi. In 1961, he applied to the all-white University of Mississippi. He was admitted, but his admission was withdrawn when the registrar discovered his race. Since all public educational institutions had been ordered to desegregate by this time (following 1954's Brown v. Board of Education ruling), Meredith filed a suit alleging discrimination. Although the district court ruled against him, the case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled in his favor.
When Meredith arrived at Ole Miss to register for classes on September 20, 1962, he found the entrance blocked. Rioting erupted, and Attorney General Robert Kennedy sent 500 U.S. Marshals to the scene. Additionally, President John F. Kennedy sent military police, troops from the Mississippi National Guard and officials from the U.S. Border Patrol. On October 1, 1962, James Meredith became the first black student to enroll at the University of Mississippi.
Meredith graduated with a degree in political science in 1963. He wrote an account of his experience, titled Three Years in Mississippi, which was published in 1966. He went on to receive a master's degree in economics from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, and a law degree from Columbia University in 1968.
Becoming active in the Republican Party in the 1960s, Meredith unsuccessfully ran for Adam Adam Clayton Powell Jr.'s seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1967. Several years later, in 1972, he ran for a seat in the Senate, losing to Democratic incumbent James Eastland. Following his unsuccessful congressional bids, from 1989 to 1991, Meredith served as a domestic adviser to U.S. Senator Jesse Helms.
Meredith married met Mary June Wiggins while serving in the U.S. military. They married in 1956 and had four children, one daughter and three sons. Mary died unexpectedly in 1979, and Meredith married Judy Alsobrook the following year. They live in Jackson, Mississippi.
© 2013 A+E Networks. All rights reserved.
profile name: James Meredith profile occupation:
Sign in with Facebook to see how you and your friends are connected to famous icons.
Your Friends' Connections
Included In These Groups
Famous Cancerians 553 people in this group
African-Americans have a long history of activism in America, from fighting for the right to vote to pushing for integrated public spaces. Activists like Stokely Carmichael organized freedom rides, James Meredith fought to integrate blacks and whites at the University of Mississippi, and Rosa Parks instigated the Montgomery Bus Boycott. These protests were often legal and nonviolent, and made a powerful impact on civil rights in the United States. With the help of activists like these—and many others—the country slowly worked to acknowledge the basic rights and contributions of African-Americans. Activists outisde of the U.S. include Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, who have fought against apartheid in South Africa. Learn more about the many black activists who fought against the odds in order to achieve equality.
Famous Black Activists 133 people in this group
"Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love." Stated by legendary civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., these words represent a basic human philosophy to which black history's greatest leaders have passionately subscribed. Learn more about the world's most revered civil rights activists, known for their fight against social injustices and lasting impact on the lives of black citizens, including Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Nelson Mandela, Nina Simone, Mary McLeod Bethune, Lena Horne, Marva Collins, Rosa Parks, W.E.B. Du Bois, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.
Famous Civil Rights Activists 156 people in this group