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College of Liberal Arts
University of Mississippi

Making History & Charting New Territory

60 Years of Integration. Building Upon The Legacy. The University of Mississippi. Logo with big "60" and illustration of Integration monument on campus.In commemorating the 60th anniversary of integration at the University of Mississippi, the College of Liberal Arts honored distinguished alumnus James Meredith (BA political science 63)—who in 1962 became the first African American student to enroll—during an inspiring year of programs and events.


Moving History Forward

Hundreds of students, faculty, staff, alumni, community members, US marshals, and national, state, and local government representatives gathered to honor James Meredith and say thank you to the man who moved history forward 60 years ago.

Keynote speaker Ethel Scurlock, an associate professor of English and African American Studies and dean of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, said she thinks of Meredith’s struggle when she finds herself in hardship and knows the university is working to accomplish his goals. “We all are working; we are making sure that your mission continues. We cannot repay you for your risk. We can only say thank you, Mr. Meredith. So, we say thank you, from people across the globe who benefited from your courageous stand.”

Among Meredith’s honors were scholarships, student awards, the Mississippi Humanitarian Award, commemorative photos and posters, the publication of a book, and an honorary deputization into the US Marshals Service.

“Thank you, University of Mississippi, for this occasion,” Meredith said, standing before the crowd “I can assure you, in my opinion, this is the best day I ever lived.”

Black Legacy Celebration Honors Meredith

African American alumni returning to their alma mater for recognition and reflection included speakers Nic Lott (BA political science 01), the first Black president of the Associated Student Body, and Kimbrely Dandridge (BAJ journalism 13), the first Black female ASB president.

A video featuring African Americans who achieved “firsts” at UM included Ethel Scurlock, the first African American to lead the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College.

Dr. J. Steven Blake (BA chemistry and zoology 80), a physician in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, challenged the audience to support the James H. Meredith Legacy Scholarship he helped establish. “My hope is that through our combined and generous gifts, this scholarship will grow until it matches, even surpasses, the level of the most prestigious scholarships this university offers.”

Norris “EJ” Edney (BA biology 11, PhD education 19), assistant vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, highlighted the Pathways to Equity institutional diversity, equity, and inclusion plan and efforts underway to promote student success. “Mr. Meredith, I’m a product of the many benefits made possible at this university by your sacrifices. My endeavor is to reach back and pull people through the doors you knocked down and propel them down the hallways to success built in memorial to your sacrifice.”

IDEAS Forum, Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Advancing through Scholarship


The College of Liberal Arts Forum for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Advancing through Scholarship fosters discussion of innovative research topics impacting today’s communities.

  • Meredith’s Audacity Then & Now: A College of Liberal Arts Conversation
    Charles Ross, acting chair and professor of history and African American Studies; Jeff Jackson, chair and professor of sociology and anthropology; and Derrick Harriell, director of African American Studies and the Otillie Schillig Associate Professor of English.
  • Shattered Kingdoms: Finding Solace When Life Is Burning Down Your American Dreams
    Acclaimed poet, Derrick Harriell, director of African American Studies and the Otillie Schillig Associate Professor of English.
  • History, Heritage, and the Politics of Memory Work in Mississippi
    Behind the Big House author Jodi Skipper, associate professor of anthropology and Southern Studies, and Patrick Weems (MA Southern Studies 14), executive director of the Emmett Till Interpretive Center.

Rhondalyn Peairs looking up at a historical marker while group of 6 adults in background watch.

Civil Rights in Oxford Town: The Integration of Education

Rhondalyn Peairs (left), a Southern Studies MA student, tour speaker, and founder of Historich educational tourism company, organized bus tours highlighting local desegregation sites. ► MORE

Dottie Chapman Reed standing at a podium addressing a small audience.

Coming Full Circle: My Journey Through the University of Mississippi to Many Points Beyond & Back

Dottie Chapman Reed (BA political science 74), UM’s first African American admissions counselor, presented a lecture about her life as a student following integration, her career, and her efforts in oral history preservation. ► MORE

Edith T. Baine Lecture for Scholars & Writers

Vote with Your Feet: James Meredith, William Kelley, & Henry David Thoreau

The Department of English presented Kinohi Nishikawa, associate professor of English and African American Studies at Princeton University.

Chuck Ross portrait, blue background

Charles Ross

Networking for Graduate Students

Charles Ross, professor of history and African American Studies, and Derrick Harriell, director of African American Studies and the Otillie Schillig Associate Professor of English, spoke about integration at UM for a Graduate School and Office of Global Engagement networking lunch.

Forum on Race & Ethnicity

Faculty and graduate students from all disciplines shared and discussed their research on race and ethnicity in both the US and abroad. Cohosted by the Center for the Study of Southern Culture.

Don Guillory standing in front of building speaking to two people

Campus Walking Tour

History PhD candidate Don Guillory led campus walking tours incorporating UM’s integration history and various buildings on campus. Students, faculty, staff, and community members came together to learn from the guided tour created by UM’s Slavery Research Group.

Black History Month Concert: Celebrating James Meredith & 60 Years of Integration

Featured Tanisha Ward, soprano guest artist; Professor Amanda Johnston, collaborative piano; UM Gospel Choir; UM Men’s Glee; Lafayette-Oxford-University Symphony Orchestra; and Ole Miss African Drum & Dance Ensemble.

…And Justice for All Program

Hosted by the Department of Music, the Nutt Auditorium performance of a choral work composed by Kyle Pederson and commissioned to celebrate World Peace Day by AVoice4Peace world-wide awareness project. ► MORE

Black and white photo of Bobby Kennedy standing at podium addressing crowd in Tad Smith Auditorium.

US Senator Robert F. Kennedy speaks at Tad Smith Coliseum.

You Asked for the Facts: Robert Kennedy at the University of Mississippi Film Screening

In her 2019 award-winning documentary, independent filmmaker Mary Blessey (MA Southern Studies 16, MFA documentary expression 19) explores US Senator Robert F. Kennedy’s 1966 visit to campus to discuss the events of James Meredith’s 1962 integration.

At UM, Kennedy spoke candidly to 6,000 students, faculty, staff, and others in Tad Smith Coliseum about the events four years earlier when he had been the US attorney general and knew about the conversations between then-Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett and the White House. ► MORE

Profile view of Doreen Ketchens as she plays the clarinet. Her eyes are closed.

UM Wind Ensemble Concert: Celebrating 60 Years of Integration

Honored James Meredith with a performance of music by African American composers Omar Thomas and Kevin Day, as well as Julie Giroux’s In My Fathers Eyes. Doreen Ketchens, a virtuoso jazz clarinetist, was the musical guest (right).

Kristen Randle and Molly Pasco-Pranger stand in Bryant Hall art gallery discussing exhibit.

Professor Molly Pasco-Pranger discusses UM’s 14 Black Classicists exhibition with Kristen Randle, a classics student majoring in art with a museum studies minor who helped with the installation in Bryant Hall’s Farrington Gallery.

African American Literature & the Classics

“Our semester-long display of Michele Valerie Ronnick’s extraordinary exhibition 14 Black Classicists and her talk on campus highlighted the importance of acknowledging and amplifying the voices of African Americans in the history of classics in the US,” said Molly Pasco-Pranger, chair of classics. “The exhibition inspired me to develop a new classics course to explore the ways African American writers and thinking have engaged with Greek and Roman literature and culture over the years.” In her course African American Literature and the Classics students explore the themes of Motherhood, the Hero and Home, and Talking to/Listening to the Dead. ► MORE

Marvin King and two students stand together with DC skyline in background

Professor King with students Ashley Miles (left), Hannah Chauvin in Washington, DC.

Travel Course Tied to UM 60th Anniversary of Integration

  • POL 398: Politics of Inequality
    Tackling the politics of inequality in the nation’s capital and led by Marvin King, associate professor of political science and African American Studies.

James Meredith seated at a desk wearing a red hat with students standing behind and around him.

James Meredith with finalists for the first University of Mississippi College of Liberal Arts James Meredith Changemaker Award: Bobby Hudson (from left), Faith Deering, Logan Thomas, Jack Meadows, and Morgan Yhap.

Ray Mabus and Shawnboda Mead stand together at formal event

Ray Mabus (BA English and political science 69), 75th US Secretary of the Navy and former Mississippi governor, was the keynote speaker. Pictured with Shawnboda Mead (right), vice chancellor of diversity and community engagement.

Honoring Diversity Excellence Ceremony

At the end of a yearlong commemoration of the 60th anniversary of integration, James Meredith sat in the crowd in the student union at an event recognizing recipients of significant accomplishments.

Lee M. Cohen, liberal arts dean, presented the inaugural College of Liberal Arts James Meredith Changemaker Award finalists to eight senior students “who strive to walk in his footsteps, continuing the difficult and critical work of change and transformation for Mississippi and for the world.” ► MORE

James Meredith: Breaking the Barrier


James Meredith's Breaking the Barrier book cover. Cover has photo of Meredith receiving diploma from UM

James Meredith sitting at a table signing his book with another person on his left.

James Meredith (above left) signs a copy of the illustrated collection of essays commemorating the 60th anniversary of his historic 1962 enrollment—after the Honoring Diversity Excellence ceremony.

Portrait of Jesse Holland

Jesse Holland (BA English and journalism 94), a journalist and professor at George Washington University, credits Meredith in the book’s foreword with paving the way for generations of African American students. Holland also moderated a panel of speakers for James Meredith & the Media: The Legacy of a Riot program.


A series of student stories reflected the characteristics James Meredith embodied six decades ago when he enrolled as UM’s first Black student and based on the themes inscribed on the Civil Rights Monument on campus: perseverance, courage, knowledge, and opportunity.

Some were College of Liberal Arts students.

Eboni Eddins on left; the word, "OPPORTUNITY" on right in background.

Searching the Globe for Better Care

Originally from North Carolina, Eboni Eddins, a biology major from Southaven, has firsthand experience with systemwide failings. She is making it her life’s mission to improve health care for minority patients.

“As a child, I spent a lot of time in doctor’s offices and had a medical condition that was ignored for a long time. We should be tackling these issues head-on. It doesn’t have anything to do with policy and training; it’s that doctors aren’t listening to their patients. One way to combat this is to get more minorities in the health care field.” ► MORE

Johnathan Dabel on right; the word, "PERSERVERANCE" on the left.

Turning Trials into Triumphs

Jonathan Dabel, an economics and public policy leadership major and Ole Miss Opportunity Scholar born in Boston who spent his childhood in Haiti—his mother’s home country, refuses to accept the status quo.

He has faced challenges and uses them as inspiration while working to attain his degree. An Associated Student Body senator, Congressional Hunger Center and Breakthrough Collaborative intern, and Every Learner Everywhere Network fellow, Dabel hopes to earn a law degree and use it to help others who face hardships while trying to better themselves. ► MORE

Ethel Scurlock (left) and Jasmine Minor wearing graduation regalia.

Ethel Scurlock (left) with Jasmine Minor.

Janelle Minor (left) with Ethel Scurlock.

Janelle Minor (left) with Ethel Scurlock.

Generations: Black Family Shares Perspectives on UM Experience

When civil rights activist James Meredith integrated the university in 1962, he made it possible for thousands of other Black people to follow him. Generations of Black families have chosen to be a part of the UM for its academic opportunities, affordability, athletics scholarships, and proximity to family. Some have been part of the university long enough to witness the growth of its welcoming environment.

“I am privileged to watch my daughters (Jasmine Minor, an African American Studies alumna, and Janelle Minor, a public policy leadership major) excel in a place that their grandfather was barred from because of the color of his skin,” said Ethel Young Scurlock, dean of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College and associate professor of English and African American Studies, who joined the faculty in 1996. ► MORE and ► MORE


Steven Blake speaking into a microphone

James H. Meredith Legacy Scholarship Established Dr. J. Steven Blake

(BA chemistry and zoology 80), a gastroenterologist in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, created an award to honor the civil rights leader and help new generations of students. As a child in Coahoma County in the 1960s, Blake remembers hearing about Meredith, his courage, and his experiences at UM. ► MORE

Cellas Hayes, standing, talking to a sitting James Meredith.

Building a Legacy Through Research

First generation college student Cellas Hayes (BA biological science 19, PhD pharmaceutical sciences 22) from Ludlow is the first Black UM student to receive the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award fellowship from the National Institutes of Health—one of the highest honors a doctoral student can receive.

Now a postdoctoral scholar at Stanford University, Hayes is advancing his training as a neuroscientist to understand the aging brain and preclinical Alzheimer’s disease. ► MORE and ► MORE