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Sat Apr 17, 2021, 02:00 PM

'The Joker Up There': Meredith Marchers Confronted Unjust Confederate Statues In 1966

by Karen L. Cox


Confederate monuments, of course, have been at the center of national debates since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Throughout the South, protesters took aim at these statues because they symbolized the same issues that led to Floyd’s death—systemic racism, white supremacy, and, relatedly, police brutality.

Yet the protest against Confederate monuments as symbols of racial injustice is not new. It is also not new to Mississippi. As I describe in my new book, “No Common Ground: Confederate Monuments and the Ongoing Fight for Racial Justice,” that protest was front and center in 1966 during the now infamous Meredith March in Mississippi. Here is an excerpt from my book about James Meredith’s “March Against Fear.”

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As the Civil Rights Movement won notable legislative victories, Black southerners were increasingly insistent in claiming the right not only to vote but also to occupy community space that, under the gaze of Confederate statues, had been barred to them. The push to register African American voters, especially in states like Mississippi where white resistance remained fierce, took on added importance, as did confrontations with monuments. This confluence of events was evident in 1966 when James Meredith—both a military veteran and a veteran in the battle against white supremacy, having integrated the University of Mississippi a few years before—decided on his own to lead a march from Memphis, Tennessee, through the heart of the Mississippi Delta, where large swaths of African Americans were still not registered to vote.

Some white Mississippians, still angry that he had integrated the state’s flagship university, were prepared to rid the state of Meredith even if it meant killing him. He did not hesitate. Mississippi was his home, too, and Black Mississippians were family. He sought to use the march not only to register voters but to help buoy people who were afraid to vote, which is why he called the journey between Memphis and Jackson a “March Against Fear.”

Read more: https://www.mississippifreepress.org/11265/the-joker-up-there-meredith-marchers-confronted-unjust-confederate-statues-in-1966/

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