Oct. 1, 1962, is a date every Ole Miss student should know. It was the day James Meredith successfully registered as a student, thus integrating The University of Mississippi and “opening the closed society.” It was the day progress began at our university.
James Meredith is a hero to the students of The University of Mississippi and to all students who came before us and strove for progress. When speaking at Fulton Chapel earlier this year, Myrlie Evers-Williams made an interesting point that really struck me. She said that every student, not just minority students, should be thankful for James Meredith and the work of all civil rights advocates.
I completely agree with Evers-Williams. I am just as thankful for Meredith as any minority student should be. Thanks to James Meredith and other civil rights leaders, I can attend the University of Mississippi with all of my friends, black and white. I can learn from qualified, highly intelligent faculty, both black and white. I can take interesting classes in areas like African American studies, gender studies, civil rights history and much more. I have the chance to learn and expand my knowledge; I can learn about other cultures, their customs and experiences.
Because of people like James Meredith, I can feel comfortable with openly sharing my opinions and thoughts.
I am thankful for all of these things, and I’m thankful for the dedication, hard work and sacrifices of Meredith and others. They have added so many benefits and advantages to Ole Miss.
This campus has much to celebrate on the 50th anniversary of integration. Last year, the Associated Student Body elected its first female black president. Recently, students elected the first black Homecoming Queen, and I am honored to have played a role in the election and in the progress that was made.
While we are unable to fully grasp the pain and obstacles that our predecessors had to overcome during integration, my campaign team can certainly say we had many obstacles and problems in our path. I am so excited to have been a part of history — history made especially important by the celebration of 50 years of integration on this campus.
Of course, while we have made great progress, we still have many obstacles to overcome as we continue to move forward.
In the 2011-12 academic year, 24.3 percent of students were minority students. While this is a clear advancement, I feel the university still has many strides to take in order to increase minority enrollment. At one time, many people around the country held negative views of Ole Miss. However, the university’s image continues to evolve, and more people see The University of Mississippi for what it truly is — a place of learning where all are welcome and all are challenged to succeed.
We are certainly moving in the right direction. The university and administration have chosen to recognize the anniversary of integration with many spectacular lectures and other events. I urge everyone to visit www.50years.olemiss.edu and learn about the upcoming events and some amazing history, along with viewing some fantastic photographs.
Let’s celebrate our history together and mark this occasion with solemn remembrance, heartfelt joy and determination to continue moving forward.
Adam Blackwell is a public policy leadership junior from Natchez. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBlackwell1.