[sixties-l] Remembering an American insurrection (fwd)

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Date: Fri Sep 27 2002 - 03:12:07 EDT

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    Date: Thu, 26 Sep 2002 23:33:54 -0700
    From: radtimes <resist@best.com>
    Subject: Remembering an American insurrection

    Remembering an American insurrection


    September 27, 2002

    Forty years ago this month, a lone black man named James Meredith faced off
    against an angry mob of thousands of white segregationists on the campus of
    the University of Mississippi. After a violent clash that left two people
    dead, 48 American soldiers injured,
    and 30 U.S. Marshals with gunshot wounds, a dignified Meredith sat in the
    registrar's office with stunned college officials and signed the forms that
    led to the historic integration of a fiercely resistant Ole Miss.
    The incident, dubbed the Battle of Oxford, is mostly ignored in public
    school history texts. But as author and documentarian William Doyle
    describes it, the showdown was "the biggest domestic military crisis of the
    twentieth century" and a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement.
    Doyle's gripping and meticulously researched book, "An American
    Insurrection: The Battle of Oxford, Mississippi, 1962," recounts Meredith's
    brave stand against Mississippi's Democrat governor Ross Barnett, the state
    police, the Ku Klux Klan, students and bloodthirsty rabble-rousers who took
    up guns, clubs, bricks and bottles in their bid to prevent a fellow
    American citizen from getting a college education.
    On Meredith's first day of class, the stinging smell of tear gas filled the
    air. Some 30,000 federal troops had been sent to quell the uprising against
    Meredith's presence. "I was more frightened at Mississippi than I was at
    Pearl Harbor or any other time during the war," one U.S. Marshal told Doyle.
    Meredith himself never showed fear. He walked past blood-stained hallways,
    endured hate-filled taunts from his fellow students and sat down
    unflappably for his first lecture:
    "The Beginnings of English Colonization." On August 18, 1963, at a
    graduation ceremony with 16 federal marshals monitoring the crowd, Meredith
    received a bachelor of arts degree in political science.
    Three years later, while on a one-man march from Memphis to Jackson to
    promote voting rights, a sniper opened fire on Meredith with an automatic
    16-gauge shotgun. He sustained wounds to his head, back, shoulders and
    legs; at least 80 pellets remain lodged in his body. Later, he outraged
    many of his former colleagues by opposing government-imposed affirmative
    action, welfare and busing and joining the staff of conservative Republican
    senator Jesse Helms.
    Meredith, now 69 and a resident of Jackson, Miss., is a fascinating,
    renegade hero. Grandson of a slave and son of a property-owning farmer, he
    was among the first black soldiers to join the racially integrated U.S.
    armed forces. After serving in Japan, he enrolled at all-black Jackson
    State College against a backdrop of horrific lynchings across the Deep
    South. Meredith resolved to do what he could to break the reign of white
    supremacy: Confront the beast head on by enrolling at the segregated
    university that he had dreamed of attending since he was a little boy.
    To the chagrin of those who romanticize the Kennedys and the Democrats as
    the unassailable and stalwart champions of civil rights, author Doyle
    reveals how brothers John and Bobby botched the handling of the crisis at
    Ole Miss. JFK preferred to wash his hands of the whole "God-damn mess" that
    the civil rights issue had become to his White House. RFK, then his
    brother's attorney general, led negotiations with Gov. Barnett that
    collapsed at the last minute and led to what he later called the worst
    night of his life.
    Doyle reports that the Kennedys, more concerned with public relations than
    sacred principles of equality, secretly ordered black soldiers pulled from
    the front lines of the battle and forcibly resegregated. Some 4,000 black
    troops were assigned to garbage details and kitchen patrol in order not to
    offend white rioters. It was a disgraceful maneuver, made all the more so,
    one black military policeman told Doyle, "when you consider what the hell
    we were sent down there forthe integration of a racially discriminatory
    Based on more than 500 eyewitness interviews, hours of White House tapes,
    and some 9,000 pages of files from the Federal Bureau of Investigations,
    Doyle's "American Resurrection" is an invaluable retelling of forgotten
    historya passionate tribute to one man who walked the talk of equality, and
    a shameful indictment of the cowards and villains who stood in the way.

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