Fifty years ago, black man James Meredith matriculated at the University of Mississippi after a lengthy legal battle with school administrators and state politicians. The governor of Mississippi himself, Ross Barnett, chastised President John F. Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy's support of Meredith as "evil and illegal forces of tyranny." Thousands of soldiers were deployed to ensure Meredith's safe entry onto campus, which led to a riot that killed two and injured hundreds. In the end, despite all the anger and violence, Meredith entered classes at Ole Miss and graduated in 1963 with a degree in political science.
Last week, five decades after Meredith first set foot on the Ole Miss campus, the school celebrated his groundbreaking enrollment with several events held in his and his original comrades' honors. Though he is alive and in good health, the now 79-year-old Meredith refused to attend the services, believing them to be misguided, according to reports.
"I ain't never heard of the Germans celebrating the invasion of Normandy, or the bombing and destruction of Berlin. I ain't never heard of the Spanish celebrating the destruction of the Armada."
Asked to clarify, Meredith said: "Did you find anything 50 years ago that I should be celebrating?"
Besides wanting nothing to do with Ole Miss's desegregation anniversary, Meredith has also said that a statue commemorating him on campus, erected in 2006, is "hideous" and should be destroyed. According to the Associated Press, he believes it "glosses over the magnitude of Mississippi's resistance to his exercise of what should have been recognized as an obvious human right."
"Mississippi has so humiliated me," he told the AP. "They ain't never acknowledged that there was a war."