Interview with Constance Baker Motley
QUESTION 39
INTERVIEWER:

WE ARE IN MISSISSIPPI. JAMES MEREDITH. WHAT WAS THE LEGAL ISSURE AROUND JAMES MEREDITH'S ADMISSION TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSISSIPPI, AND AGAIN YOU WANT TO BE LOOKING AT ME AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE.

Judge Constance Baker Motley:

Now, after having opened the University in each state, we finally got an applicant in the state of Mississippi who requested our assistance. Contrary to what many southerners believed, particularly southern officials, we did not solicit James Meredith. Going to the University of Mississippi was James Meredith's idea. He was a native Mississippian. He left his home state when he graduated from high school. Went to Florida and went to high school there and then finally went into the service where he spent nine years and when he had been in the service nine years, he decided that he himself would be the black in the state of Mississippi to challenge that state's system of racial segregation. He left the army, enrolled in Jackson state college in Jackson and from there he made his application to the University of Mississippi. He contacted Medgar Evers who was then the state secretary of the NAACP and Medgar Evers wrote us in Now York and said that he had a young man who came to his office and wanted help in seeking admission to the University of Mississippi. Now his was a by that time, a classic legal case. There was nothing unusual legally of, speaking about his case. He, the University of Mississippi was for whites only. And the Supreme Court in Brown had ruled that the state could not have segregated education. So it wasn't complicated legally. The problem with Mississippi was that it was the state that everyone suspected would offer the greatest resistance to blacks being admitted to white schools. And of course that is exactly what happened. And it cost the government millions of dollars in enforcing that decision through the use of federal troops. Meredith went through under guard for a year and a half.