Photojournalism students at the Meek School found themselves listening to a living history lesson, as witnesses to the integration process at Ole Miss spoke about their experiences. The event was part of the university’s “50 Years of Integration” project, a year-long exploration of James Meredith’s enrollment in 1962 and its impact then and now.
Jan Humber Robertson is a former managing editor of the Daily Mississippian. She described what it was like to be a journalist at the scene.
“I went up to a highway patrolman, and I looked up on the building, Old Chemistry, and saw a man with a rifle on the roof… and I went up to a highway patrolman and I said, ‘There is a man with a hunting rifle on the roof of that building… I just saw him.’ He turns around and literally patted me on the head and said, ‘Don’t you worry your pretty little head about that little girl.’ He didn’t even turn around and look up at the roof, I think he was afraid that he might see him,” said Robertson.
Other panelists described walking over the wounded at the Lyceum and of hearing the tear gas canisters popping while they tried to listen to President Kennedy on the television set, calling for calm.
Humber Robertson said she was proud of the work done by the Daily Mississippian that year, and she stated that the FBI had praised the student paper for providing accurate reporting on the events leading up to and following Meredith’s enrollment.
“My father tried to withdraw me from Ole Miss, but I did not go home until Thanksgiving. I had seen so many lies about what happened here. I knew that I wanted to be a journalist; I had a responsibility to study and do what I could to print what I witnessed, what was actually happening,” said Humber Robertson.
The students captured the memories of the panelists in a series of quotes and photos.