Holder to give civil rights speech at Ole Miss

Eric Holder
Eric Holder

JACKSON – (AP) U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will speak about civil rights today at the University of Mississippi.

The Justice Department said Holder’s speech is titled “50 Years of Integration -1962-2012: A Reflection on Civil Rights in America.”

It’s one of several events Ole Miss is sponsoring to commemorate James Meredith’s court-ordered enrollment as the university’s first black student on Oct. 1, 1962.

Holder is the speaker for the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College convocation, which begins at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Gertrude C. Ford Center for the Performing Arts on the Oxford campus. The event is free, but tickets are required for admission.

James Meredith being escorted to Ole Miss in 1962.

Two people were killed and more than 100 were injured as integration opponents converged on Oxford in 1962. U.S. marshals escorted Meredith, a 29-year-old Air Force veteran, while he registered and attended classes. His enrollment came only days after then-Gov. Ross Barnett declared that integration would never happen on his watch.

Meredith had previously taken classes at what is now Jackson State University, and he graduated from Ole Miss in August 1963 with a degree in political science.

In his recently published book, “A Mission from God: A Memoir and Challenge for America,” Meredith wrote that he doesn’t like to be called a civil rights activist.

“I know that this may strike some people as a kind of historical blasphemy to say this, but the rhetoric and vocabulary of the American civil rights movement has always seemed upside-down and backward to me,” Meredith wrote. “In fact, I always found it grossly insulting to me, to you, and to every American citizen, because it always begins with the assumption or concession that some or any of our civil rights are up for negotiation. They are not now and never have been. We were anointed with and guaranteed all of these rights at birth as Americans.”

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