As a battleground state in the African American Civil Rights movement, Mississippi played an instrumental role in an all-important period of awakening for our nation. As schools were desegregated and tensions rose between blacks and whites, Mississippi and its residents watched as the United States became a changed land in which the rights of all were the rights of equals.
Leading the charge of the Mississippi Civil Rights movement was a famous casualty of the Civil Rights era conflicts. Medgar Evers was a prominent Mississippi civil rights leader and a secretary of the NAACP who was murdered in his driveway by a Ku Klux Klan member in 1963. In the course of his fight for civil rights, Evers came to the attention of the NAACP when his application to the then segregated University of Mississippi School of Law was rejected. The ensuing lawsuit was instrumental in the Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka decision that declared segregation unconstitutional.
Kosciusko native James Meredith became the first African American student at the University of Mississippi in 1962 after winning his own lawsuit against the University. On multiple occasions he was blocked entry to the school by then governor Ross Barnett. After federal marshals intervened he was allowed to enter, and the ensuing riot saw the lives of two people lost. National Guardsmen were stationed on campus to prevent any further violence, and though there was none, Meredith suffered harassment at the hands of his fellow students. Since that time, the University of Mississippi has become one of the premier universities in the country for people of all colors, and its campus is now a national historic landmark due to its significance in the African American Civil Rights movement.
These few examples stand as testaments to the heroic individuals who fought so hard at Mississippi civil rights efforts and endured so much for the advancement of our society. These brave Mississippians fought for everyone and sought “The Dream.”
In the time since the Civil Rights era, Mississippi has grown into a truly multi-cultural state that welcomes new residents with open arms. Because of the spotlight shown so brightly upon us, Mississippi has had to deal even more closely with its past and fully move forward into a new era of equality for all.