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The Foley Institute Coffee & Politics Series



The fight for equality then and now 

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On October 19th the Foley Institute had the pleasure of welcoming civil rights activist James Meredith. Meredith was the first African-American student to integrate the University of Mississippi in 1962. He was also an advocate of African-American voting rights.

In 1966, Meredith planned a 220 mile march against fear from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi to protest a lack of voter’s rights and equality among the African-American community. Meredith marched through the town of Hernando, Mississippi. While he walked through Hernando people lined the streets in support of what he was doing, despite their common fear of persecution. As Meredith left the city limits he was shot multiple times by a white man waiting to assassinate him. Several members of the march including Martin Luther King Jr. remained with Meredith for some period of time before rejoining the march.

Meredith returned to the march the day before arriving in Jackson, Mississippi, where he walked the front line with other prominent leaders of the march. Meredith has since been part of continued efforts and action to create increased equality for the African-American community and to eliminate injustices.

Meredith proceeded to share with the audience the driving force behind his actions and why he has remained such a prominent leader in the advancement of civil rights. He attributed much of his success and determination to his faith and religion. Meredith discussed how important his views were and how they propelled him forward to accomplish all that he did in his youth, and how that faith continues to guide him and help him advocate for the African-American community. He acknowledged that many different leaders he had met throughout the years each had something special that acted as their inspiration, and Meredith discussed how that without his faith he would never have had the confidence to attend the University of Mississippi or to embark on the march against fear that unified so many and acted as a major step in the civil rights movement.


With support from the WSU President’s Office, the Associated Students of Washington State University, and the WSU School of Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs