Sept. 30 – Riots Over Segregation at Ole Miss

GabeAmerican History(BR), Bell Ringers

On Sept. 30, 1962, riots broke out across the University of Mississippi over the federal government’s enforcement of integration at the university.

Following the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, segregated schools were unconstitutional. This, however, did not stop many southern states from attempting to disrupt its implementation.

In 1962, Ole Miss university accepted James Meredith, but revoked his admission when it learned that he was African-American. A federal court ruled that Ole Miss had to allow Meredith to attend their school, but Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett led a group of protestors who blocked the entrance to the school.

Barnett was charged with civil contempt, and President John F. Kennedy sent federal troops to protect Meredith and escort him throughout the Ole Miss campus. Protestors opposed to desegregation surrounded the campus, leading to increased tensions between the U.S. Marshals and protestors.

Two men were killed in the ensuing standoff, but Meredith defied the racist sentiments of most at Ole Miss and was able to attend the school. He graduated in 1963.

  1. Who do you think should prevail when a state government and federal government disagree about the implementation of a law? For instance, many states and cities today refuse to implement federal drug or immigration laws. Should the federal government send in troops, as they did in the case of desegregation? If not, why not?
  2. Prior to the 1960s, de jure segregation was prevalent, meaning segregation existed due to the law in Southern states. Today, however, we routinely see de facto segregation, which exists in all states, because of choices people make about where they live and the people they associate with. What are the differences between remedying de jure segregation, and trying to remedy de facto segregation?

Image Citation:

20, Sept. 2018, John Michael Doar, Civil Rights Lawyer [Digital photograph].  Retrieved from <>.