African American Heritage

James Meredith and the March Against Fear

Activist James Meredith, the first African American to enroll at the University of Mississippi, began a solitary walk on June 6, 1966, intending to walk from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi to call attention to racism and continued voter discrimination in the South. Shortly after beginning the march he was shot by James Norvell, a white gunman. After the shooting, several major civil rights activists and organizations including: the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR) responded in the form of continuing the walk in honor of Meredith. The Deacons for Defense and Justice served as an armed escort along the way. By the end of the march on June 22, 1966 the number of marchers had risen to approximately 15,000 in Jackson, Mississippi making it one of the largest marches in history for that area. At a rally towards the end of the march, Stokely Carmichael first publicly said "Black Power" in a speech urging self determination and Black pride.

James Meredith first gained acclaim when he successfully challenged the Kennedy administration to protect his civil rights, and applied for admission at the state-funded University of Mississippi. After being denied admission twice, Meredith (with backing from the NAACP) filed suit for racial discrimination. After rounds of negotiations with Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Meredith was permitted to enroll at Ole Miss under escort of federal troops. After completing his education elsewhere, James Meredith had unsuccessful runs for Congressional office in New York and Mississippi.


Records Relating to James Meredith and the March Against Fear

Web Highlights

NDC Blog:  James Meredith and his March Against Fear

Record Group 60: Department of Justice (DOJ)

Class 144 (Civil Rights) Litigation Case Files, 1936 - 1997  National Archives Identifier 603432

  • Case File 144-40-570 [Shooting of James H. Meredith (1966)]

Record Group 65: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Classification 44 (Civil Rights) Headquarters Case Files National Archives Identifier 2329984

44-19767, Mississippi (1962) James Meredith (NAID 7625652)

44-33390-13, Mississippi (1966) Photos of Meredith March and Memorial Ceremonies for 3 Civil Rights workers; M.L. King, Jr., James H. Meredith, Stokely Carmichael (NAID 7639704)

44-33292, Section 1 Serials 1-22, Mississippi (1966) Memorial ceremonies for three slain civil rights workers, Philadelphia ;M.L. King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy, Floyd McKissick, Sokely Carmichael, James H. Meredith, Dick Gregory, James Letherer, Dep. Sheriff (NAID 7639603)

44-33125, Section 1 Serials 1-78, Mississippi (1966) Shooting of James Howard Meredith, "March Against Fear," M.L. King, Jr., Aubrey James Norvell, Dick Gregory, Stokely Carmichael, Floyd McKissick, Vernon Jordan, Charles Evers, Marion Barry, Maxine Smith (NAID 7639428)

44-33125, Section 4 Serials 108-124, Mississippi (1966) Photos of "March Against Fear" and of shooting of Meredith (NAID 7639431)

Classification 157 (Civil Unrest) Headquarters Case Files National Archives Identifier 4795307

FBI Headquarters: 157-HQ-7782 v. 1 Rabble Rouser Index (NAID 6740971digitized