November 26th, 2012 by Abigail Ronstadt
WHAT IF I TOLD YOU…? That one American college football team and one college student would be forever intertwined. In 1962, the University of Mississippi, better known as Ole Miss, was in the midst of one of the greatest college football seasons in history.
At the same time James Meredith was trying to become the first African-American student to enroll at Ole Miss. What followed was an emotionally and racially charged war on Ole Miss’ campus; a campus that was barely being held together by the success of the school’s football team.
This is the story of one African-American exercising his civil rights and one of the greatest teams to ever play college football.
Oxford, Mississippi, 1962: The days where tumultuous on the campus of Ole Miss in the fall of ’62. The African-American Civil Rights Movement was in full swing, integration was being fiercely opposed, and one man decided to challenge the classic values of an entire state. Ole Miss was ordered by the U.S. Supreme Court to admit James Meredith, a former nine-year Air Force service member, for enrolment at the university.
The head of state, Governor Ross Barnett, urged resistance to Meredith’s admittance and was hooked on the drug-like effect that the state’s mainly Caucasian population support was having on him.
In the dark of the night James Meredith [pictured below in the film] was ushered onto Ole Miss’ campus, aided by about 100 Federal Marshalls. When the students caught wind of the news, riots erupted. Two people were killed and countless others injured during these riots in what some call the “last great battle of the American Civil War.”
As the campus deteriorated amidst the riots, the success of the football team was all – it seemed – that held the school together. The greatest season and only undefeated season in the University of Mississippi’s history may have saved the school.
This is the story of the collision course of two great historical achievements. One was an enormous civil rights gain for African-Americans around the United States, the other a university’s greatest sporting achievement in its proudest sport. Follow a story of tear gas, riots, integration, football, and hope that still impacts Ole Miss today … some fifty years after the fact.
Written by Michael Marra
“I had been to Oxford, Miss. a few times in the 90′s to work on football stories; even knew about James Meredith integrating Ole Miss back in 1962. I’d seen the chips in the lyceum columns from the night of the riots, but as I read Wright Thompson’s story, The Ghosts of Mississippi, I was shocked to find that there was a connection between football and civil rights. Thompson described a Mississippi with deep psychological wounds from the civil war and a football team that made the university proud during this shameful period. Why didn’t I know this story? How come others hadn’t written about it? Most importantly, I was alive, albeit a little boy, when this happened. It was hard for me to believe that an isolated society like this even existed and that football was an integral part of it.
When I walk around the grove at Ole Miss, I am captivated by the beauty of the campus but always mindful of William Faulkner’s quote, “The past is never dead, it’s not even past.”
Director: Fritz Mitchell
“…I commend Thompson on his ability to tell that ever so important story in a very personal and compelling way. The chilling images of student protesters and injured federal troops on that fateful October evening surely moved anyone who was watching.”
Garrett Mcinnis – The Clarion-Ledger
“…Ghosts Of Ole Miss has a strong presence, it’s the 79-year-old James Meredith, who, asked for his own recollections of those days…”
Phil Dyess-Nugent – a.v. club
COMING SOON in the 30 for 30 Volume Two Season
Check local listings for premiere and repeats screenings for Vol 2 films, as well as re-runs of archive ESPN Films
“You Don’t Know Bo” – Vincent ‘Bo’ Jackson hit 500-foot home runs and ran over linebackers. A look at the man and the myths of a two-sport legend and pop culture icon that captured our collective imagination.
|20 May - 06:00||30 For 30 - Tim Richmond: To the Limit|
|20 May - 07:00||30 For 30 - Little Big Men|
|31 May - 21:30||30 For 30 - The Best that Never Was|
|1 Jun - 04:30||30 For 30 - You Don't Know Bo|
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