(Also from this 1962 issue, see ads and cartoons featuring the ultimate in compact TV and the latest in telephones.)
The cover story this week was James Meredith’s “I’ll Know Victory or Defeat.” It tells of his admission to the University of Mississippi that year, his experiences with the federal marshals who escorted him to his classes, and the ordeal of living as the focus of high racial tension.
Robert K. Massie, a contributing editor for the Post, wrote of the rioting that left two dead and scores of students and bystanders injured. William Faulkner’s brother, John, who lived in the university town of Oxford Mississippi, wrote of “The Hate Here Now.”
The issue also included the second installment of “Eichmann And His Trial,” written by Gideon Hausner, Israel’s Attorney General. Hausner directed the prosecution of former Nazi and Holocaust engineer, Adolf Eichmann, and obtained the conviction that led to Eichmann’s execution earlier that year.
Excerpted from “I’ll Know Victory or Defeat” by James Meredith:
The Federal officers told me we were going that Sunday …
When [our plane] landed in Oxford it was almost dark. We got in a car and I remember seeing a truckload of marshals in front of us and one behind. I went straight to the university and was taken to my rooms—an apartment, I guess you could call it. Since they knew some Government men would be staying with me, I had two bedrooms and a living room and a bathroom. The first thing I did was make my bed.
When the trouble started, I couldn’t see or hear very much of it. Most of it was at the other end of the campus, and besides I didn’t look out the window. I think I read a newspaper and went to bed around 10 o’clock. I was awakened several times in the night by the noise and shooting outside, but it wasn’t near me, and I had no way of knowing what was going on. Some of the students in my dormitory banged their doors for a while and threw some bottles in the halls, but I slept pretty well all night.
I woke up about six-thirty in the morning and looked out and saw the troops. There was a slight smell of tear gas in my room, but I still didn’t know what had gone on during the night, and I didn’t find out until some marshals came and told me how many people were hurt and killed. I had gotten to know these marshals pretty well in recent weeks, and I was so sorry about this.
Some supposedly responsible newspapermen asked me if I thought attending the university was worth all this death and destruction. That really annoyed me. Of course I was sorry! I didn’t want that sort of thing. I believe it could have been prevented by responsible political leaders. I understand the President and the attorney general were up most of the night. They had all the intelligence at their disposal, and I believe they handled it to the best of their knowledge and ability. I think it would have been much worse if we had waited any longer. Social change is a painful thing, but it depends on the people at the top. Here they were totally opposed—the state against the Federal Government. There was bound to be trouble, and there was trouble.
Monday morning at eight o’clock I registered, and at nine I went to a class in Colonial American History. I was a few minutes late, and I took a seat at the back of the room. The professor was lecturing on the background in England, conditions there at the time of the colonization of America, and he paid no special attention when I entered. I think there were about a dozen students in the class. One said hello to me, and the others were silent. I remember a girl—the only girl there, I think—and she was crying, but it might have been from the tear gas in the room. I was crying from it myself.
I was sure that if I were harmed or killed, somebody else would take my place one day. I would hate to think another Negro would have to go through that ordeal, but I would hate worse to think there wouldn’t be another who would do it.
One of the biggest things in my life is that I have always felt I was never able to develop my talents. I have felt many times that, given the opportunity, I could develop into practically anything. Many times I have been angry at the world for not giving me an opportunity to develop. I am sure this has been a strong motivating force with me, and I’m sure it is with many Negroes. Since then I’ve always tried to see myself in relation to the whole society. Too many Negroes see themselves only in relation to other Negroes. But that’s not good enough. We have to see ourselves in the whole society. If America isn’t for everybody, it isn’t America.