If you go through the north entrance of the University of Mississippi, walk past the student union, and hang a right by the old chapel, you come to a massive Greek Revival building at the heart of campus named the Lyceum. It was from under the columns of the Lyceum in 1861 that a doomed company of students known as the “University Greys” marched away to fight in the Civil War, never to return. And it was at the Lyceum, a century later, that a howling mob formed to stop James Meredith from becoming the first black person ever to enroll at Ole Miss.
Meredith’s arrival on campus on the afternoon of September 30, 1962, touched off a bloody riot. Photographs taken that night show the Lyceum cloaked in tear gas and ringed by hundreds of federal marshals. By the time 20,000 federal troops began arriving on campus the next morning to restore order, two people were dead, and 160 of the marshals were injured — 28 suffering gunshot wounds. James Meredith was not injured, and registered for classes in the Lyceum the next morning, officially integrating Ole Miss 114 years after it became Mississippi’s first public university.