James Meredith - 50 years on
Sol B River had an exclusive interview with the American Civil Rights activist, James Meredith, which was aired last night on BBC 2's Newsnight. The interview covered a range of themes that resonate profoundly with both its participants as well as the BME community at large. In an age of significant racial discrimination, James Howard Meredith went on to become a key player in the African-American Civil Rights Movement that dominated the early 1960s.
Yet, he achieved all that he did not as part of any civil rights group, but "just by being James Meredith" as said by River. Meredith is known for his distaste for the term 'civil rights,' stating that such a term implies that "civil rights [are] somehow set apart from - well, rights." Defying the racial divide of his time, he became the first African-American student admitted to the segregated University of Mississippi, a feat that was previously deemed unthinkable.
The iconic image above shows civil rights activist James Meredith moments after he was shot on June 6, 1966 while leading a civil rights march. The march aimed to encourage African Americans to exercise their voting rights and the image shows him pulling himself across the highway in visible pain. Straight after being treated, Meredith completed the march from Memphis to Jackson.
Meredith galvanised the black vote of his generation by devoting his life to actively promoting the political involvement of the black population of Mississippi, relentlessly resisting the "perpetual second-class citizenship" that blighted the lives of so many Mississippians.
On the 50th anniversary of his entrance into the University of Mississippi and with the publishing of his new book "A Mission from God" with William Doyle, River speaks with a man who immediately confesses to being in awe of the iconic Activist.
He hails the 'magnificence of a man,' who dedicated his life to eliminating the foregone conclusion that skin colour made one either inferior or superior to another. The exclusive interview, the only televised interview with James Meredith in the UK, aims to send a wider message to the BME community that, in the words of River,
"There is no such thing as inferiority."
This is a message that aims to encourage BME communities of today to see themselves as active players capable of making a difference through their vote. The interview promises to offer great insight into a man who became a force great change and whose legacy lives on today.