Fifty years ago, James Meredith, the first black student at the University of Mississippi, had to be escorted by federal marshals to his mostly empty classes. His enrollment came after a standoff between state segregationists and the federal government that led to a deadly riot on the Oxford campus.
Today, black and white juniors and seniors at Ole Miss sit together around a table in an Honors College class on the school’s turbulent history. The course is called “Opening the Closed Society,” and is an in-depth look at the integration of Ole Miss.
Journalist Curtis Wilkie, who is white, was a senior at Ole Miss during the riot. He teaches the course with a younger black political science professor, Marvin King. King says teaching around this pivotal moment shows students the broader implications of the battle here.