I am not a civil rights hero. I am a warrior, and I am on a mission from God. James Meredith engineered two of the epic social justice victories: the desegregation of the University of Mississippi in 1962, which helped open the doors of education to all Americans; and the March Against Fear in 1966, which helped open the floodgates of voter registration in the South. One of the most enigmatic figures of post-war U.S. history, Meredith reveals how these milestones in Civil Rights history were achieved, and why he has dedicated his life to education and human rights for all. A Mission From God is a narrative of turbulent, history-changing events, and encounters with striking American characters like Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert F. Kennedy, Mary McCloud Bethune, segregationist Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett, Thurgood Marshall, former Klan leader David Duke, and the legendary Medgar Evers. In A Mission From God we see how Meredith emerges as a former member of US Air Force who'simply wants an education in his home state.
The last battle of the Civil War was fought in October 1962 when Meredith registered to become the first black student at the University of Mississippi. "Surveying the scene, I felt a little like Dwight Eisenhower on the eve of D-Day," he writes. Four years later, after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, Meredith was shot by a sniper. His one-man March Against Fear, intended to inspire blacks to register to vote, became the last great civil rights march, resulting in approximately 6,000 registered voters. Meredith's mission? Nothing less than to shatter the state-enforced system of white supremacy in Mississippi, preferably with the "awesome physical force of the United States military machine." Do not mistake him for a civil rights activist. Think Zen Warrior. Unabashedly egotistic, contrary by nature, and downright quixotic, he disagreed with Martin Luther King Jr. over the efficacy of nonviolence and worked for Sen. Jesse Helms as a domestic policy adviser. Meredith's biggest influence was his father, a proud subsistence farmer who regarded his land as a sovereign kingdom. He resents being turned into a "feel-good icon of brotherly love and racial reconciliation." With this lively, compelling book, part memoir and part history lesson, Meredith reminds us how far we've come, and urges us to go further. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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August 07, 2012
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