James Meredith, an African-American Air Force veteran from Mississippi, did not perish during the civil rights protests of the 1960s, but it was not for lack of trying. On Oct. 1, 1962, Meredith became the first black student to attend the University of Mississippi at Oxford, a death-defying step that impelled President Kennedy to send federal marshals and the U.S. Army to keep racist mobs at bay. On June 5, 1966, following passage of a Voting Rights Act that promised federal protection to blacks seeking the ballot, Meredith began a solitary 220-mile March Against Fear from Memphis, Tenn., through Jackson, Miss., to inspire voter registration. Meredith advanced just inside Mississippi when a Klansman felled him with a shotgun blast. Remarkably, Meredith survived to give his blessing to Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders to continue his journey.


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