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Three Years In Mississippi: The Autobiography of James Meredith

James Meredith was a pivotal civil rights activist for Mississippi. Meredith is well known for being the first African-American to attend the University of Mississippi. This novel not only details his struggles and sacrifices to desegregate Ole Miss, but it is a first-person witness of the racist mentality of the 1960s. 

Starting off the novel, Meredith instantly gives readers a glimpse into his reality of being an African-American citizen in the South. While traveling with his wife and child, Meredith knew that it would be a potentially dangerous trek from California to Mississippi. Few gas stations serviced African-Americans, so keeping enough gas in the car was a challenge for Meredith and his family. 

Later in the novel, Meredith reveals the grueling admission process before being admitted to the University of Mississippi. Through a series of telegrams, Meredith communicated with the dean of admissions during that time, only to get turned down on the second telegram. Rather than break Meredith, it made him stronger. He was soon contacted by Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice, and after getting good recommendation letters, Meredith eventually was accepted into the university. Attending the university was not without its challenges.

Meredith goes on to explain, from his perspective, various civil rights events during his lifetime, such as the Freedom Riders and Brown vs. the Board of Education. Meredith’s novel is a living document of the historical events of the 1960s. Readers will be pleased with Meredith’s unwavering, tell-all truth. While Meredith left his mark on history by becoming the first African-American to attend the University of Mississippi, it was still a long way to go until people of color would gain all their rights as U.S. citizens. Fortunately, many successes gave African Americans extended rights--such as the court case of Brown v. Board of Education, which declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional.

Although not perfect, there has been some progress made towards leading America to a conscientious future toward racial inequalities. Several of those have been implemented within Mississippi, such as the change to the Mississippi State Flag and several African-American governmental officials elected into state office. In addition, for the first time in the nation’s history, Kamala Harris, an African-American woman, is serving as the Vice President of the United States.

Those like Meredith demonstrate the courage and determination that it takes to overcome adversities. Many could only hope to obtain the humility and unfaltering determination that Meredith possessed to advance towards a better society.
by Kyra Lampley

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