Ole Miss celebrates 50 years of integration

Ole Miss celebrates 50 years of integration

(WMC-TV) - Monday marked 50 years since the integration of Ole Miss.

James Meredith walked onto campus as the University's first African American student on October 1, 1962.

Now, his footsteps are creating the path for this generation of African Americans.

Admission did not come without struggle.

Angry mobs swarmed the campus and the town of Oxford, rioting to try and keep Meredith out.

Hundreds were injured, two were killed, but Meredith was admitted.

His son John spoke alongside the U.S. Marshals that protected his father.

"Bottles and bricks were thrown at us as we were coming in through the airport to town," said retired deputy marshal Herschel Garner.

James Meredith wasn't spotted at Monday's panel.

In interviews he's asked reporters -- 'Do you find anything 50 years ago that I should be celebrating?'

Maybe not 50 years ago, but on Monday perhaps there was reason for rejoice on campus.

Kimberly Dandridge is the school's first African American female president and a friend of the Meredith family.

"To be the president of this university 50 years after James Meredith integrated the university is just a historic moment for me and I'm so honored to be in the midst of all this today," Dandridge said.

Dandridge is from Senatobia, Mississippi and says she feels the university has taken giant steps forward.

This year's enrollment includes more than 3,500 African Americans.

"I think Ole Miss has made tremendous progress, but we still have miles to go," Dandridge said.

Meredith challenged the audience to never forget his father's struggle and to seize opportunity.

"With fewer barriers to success than ever before, if not now, when?" Meredith asked.

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