Interview with Myrlie Evers
QUESTION 29
INTERVIEWER:

OK, OLD MISS WAS SO LATE IN THE DESEGREGATION BATTLE. IT HAPPENED IN '62. MANY OTHER COLLEGES HAD ALREADY BEEN DESEGREGATED. WHY, WHAT ABOUT, WHY WAS IT SO, THE LAST COLLEGE? IS IT SOMETHING TO DO WITH MISSISSIPPI ITSELF?

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

THIS WILL BE TAKE, TAKE NINETEEN.

[overlap]

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

THIS WILL BE TAKE TWENTY.

Myrlie Evers:

Old Miss. was very difficult and perhaps one of the, the last colleges to desegregate as such. But it did not happen easily. There was massive resistance and I think most of the population expected that from Mississippi anyway. Why did they expect it? Because Mississippi had always taken a leadership position, if you will, in the sense of defying the federal government, of seeing the federal government and all of its laws as imposing upon states' rights, their rights—that they were not going to be told what to do and that indeed that their population, particularly their black population, would stay in its place, and they were not going to get the kind of education that whites were going to get.

Myrlie Evers:

Yes. I lost my train—I'm sorry.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

THIS WILL BE TAKE TWENTY-ONE.

FILM PRODUCTION TEAM:

[SPEED…MARKING]

Myrlie Evers:

One of the reasons that Old Miss. was such a difficult university to desegregate, was due to the fact of the publicity, the emphasis that the Mississippi press gave to the desegregation of Mississippi. I can recall one of the newspapers having a front page editorial with a broad black band around it that called for blood to flow in the streets if the school was desegregated. Of course, the Governor took a very active role in talking about the threats that the state would make on its blacks who would try to enter the school. It was an effort to instill fear in the hearts of blacks and it was also an effort, and a very successful one, to arouse fear and a kind of frenzy in the white community to fight back** against the change within their system. And we were hitting them at the very heart of it in the educational system. The press played up all of the negatives that could possibly happen. The press through the media, I should say, the radio stations continually played the rebel songs. You had the rebel calls. You had, almost every five minutes, a message from the Governor that talked about blood flowing in the streets, "We must resist, that the federal government is an enemy of ours, that we are, if you will, kind of an island unto ourselves." And it really took one back into the days of the Civil War from what you could read and ascertain that happened from that. It was a maddening time, but it was also a time that gave us, as a people, more of a determination to follow through.