James Meredith bravely integrated the University of Mississippi fifty years ago. It is hard to imagine now, but at the time it took nerves of steel and a willingness to die. Mississippi was the most racist state in the nation (others were close contenders), and black people put their life at risk by speaking too boldly. Meredith put his life on the line to enroll in the university.

He has published a memoir. I have not read it yet, so I am not reviewing it here. Next time the Wall Street hedge fund managers or Condoleeza Rice or Mitt Romney or Joel Klein say they are leading the “civil rights movement of our time,” think about this man who was willing to give his life to integrate the most segregated state in the nation.

This is a press release about the book:


On the Eve of 50th Anniversary of his Historic Desegregation of the University of Mississippi on September 30, James Meredith Urges Citizens to “Storm the Schools”

September 21, 2012: Civil rights giant James Meredith, author of the provocative, just-released book A MISSION FROM GOD: A MEMOIR AND CHALLENGE FOR AMERICA (Simon & Schuster), charged today that both President Obama and Governor Romney are contributing to the destruction of American K-through-8 public education by proposing failed or unproven policies, supporting the continued waste of billions of dollars of taxpayer funds on education, and neglecting America’s children, especially the poor.

“There is no real difference between the two candidates and parties when it comes to the most critical domestic issue of our age, public education,” Meredith says. “Both Obama and Romney are in favor of multi-billion-dollar boondoggles and money-grabs that have little or no evidence of widespread benefit to K-through-8 children or the community at large, like over-reliance on high-stakes standardised testing; over-reliance on charter schools and cyber-charters; and the funding and installation of staggering amounts of unproven computer products in schools.”

According to Meredith, “Education is much too important to be left to politicians. They have failed. They came up with No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, both of which are largely failures. It is time for parents, families and teachers to take back control, and to step up to their responsibilities to take charge of education.”

His solution? “Storm the schools,” says Meredith, echoing the challenge he issues in his book A MISSION FROM GOD, which has been compared by one reviewer to a work by Dostoyevsky and hailed by Publishers Weekly as “lively and compelling.” He says, “I call on every American citizen to commit right now to help children in the public schools in their community, especially those schools with disadvantaged students.” He also suggests that citizens flood the schools with offers to volunteer to read to young children, and flood every school board and political meeting to demand that politicians and bureaucrats justify, with concrete evidence, every proposal made and every dollar being spent on public education, line by line.

While Meredith does not endorse either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, and does not endorse most individual education policy proposals, he is announcing a 4-point Manifesto to Rescue American Education, that calls for America to:

• Suspend billions of dollars of public spending on unproven high-stakes standardized testing and unproven computer products in schools, and redirect those and other necessary funds to;
• Support sharply boosting teacher quality, qualifications and pay, especially in the poorest neighborhoods,
• Expand early childhood education and community schools, especially in the poorest neighborhoods, and,
• Strengthen the back-to-basics fundamentals of K-8 education, including play-based learning for youngest students; add or restore history, civics, the arts, music and physical education to the core subjects of math, science and English; and provide proper nutrition, medical and social support services for poor children through the schools.

“The outrageous, unjust public shaming and scapegoating of teachers by politicians and self-appointed pundits must end, our problems are mostly not their fault,” says Meredith. “Teachers should be respected, revered, compensated, empowered, loved and supported to give our children the education they desperately need. And that will only happen when we, as a people, take back control of our schools.”

About James Meredith: Meredith’s one-man crusade to desegregate the University of Mississippi at Oxford exactly 50 years ago, on September 30, 1962, is considered one of the great turning points and triumphs of the civil rights era, and led the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. to place Meredith at the top of his own list of heroes in his Letter From a Birmingham Jail. In 1966, Meredith was shot while leading a “March Against Fear,” a campaign that helped open the floodgates of voter registration in the South.

Written with award-winning author William Doyle, A MISSION FROM GOD: A MEMOIR AND CHALLENGE FOR AMERICA is published to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the “Battle of Oxford” and reveals the inside story of James Meredith’s epic American journey and his challenge for Americans to save their education system.