James Meredith and Steven Blake

Historical Pioneer James Meredith Visits Coahoma, Joins Panel Discussion

James Meredith, who notably contributed to black history, lightened up the mood in the Pinnacle, comically entering the panel discussion with the statement, “James Meredith was a bad dude.”

Historical Pioneer James Meredith Visits Coahoma, Joins Panel Discussion

Press Release from Coahoma Community College Public Relations; (662) 621-4057 - Melody Dixon

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Mon Apr 29, 2019

Valmadge Towner, James Meredith and Steven Blake

James Meredith, who notably contributed to black history, lightened up the mood in the Pinnacle, comically entering the panel discussion with the statement, “James Meredith was a bad dude.”

A Kosciusko, Miss. native and the featured guest speaker among panelists President Valmadge Towner and one of CCC’s largest donors, Dr. Steve Blake of Philadelphia, Penn., Meredith sported a red cap with the charismatic words “New Miss” printed on front.

Meredith shared with the campus community his thoughts on his ground-breaking enrollment as the first African American student at the University of Mississippi, then an all-white institution, in 1962 and the civil rights era that left the black community unsettled. He talked profoundly on American communities.

“We’ve been talking about the legacy of slavery and the consequences of segregation all my life,” said Meredith. “…The black people have never done anything to live with that reality.”

An event in celebration of Coahoma Community College’s 70th Anniversary, members of the campus community and the Clarksdale community, as well as students from Coahoma Early College High School and West Tallahatchie High School filled up the Pinnacle, hanging on Meredith’s every word.

He spoke on his experience at Ole Miss.

“Everybody thought they were going to kill me; I did too,” said Meredith. “I thought the stupidest thing they ever did was didn’t kill me because I was sure trying to break up that good thing.”

Meredith commended the CCC Choir and the student participants of the program, Miss CCC 2019-20 Jessica Haygood and 2018-19 SGA president Yasmine Harper on a splendid job. He brought uplift to students with encouraging words.

“The one thing I really wanted to get across today: The future is sitting in this room,” Meredith said.

President Valmadge Towner continued the discussion, pointing out the decline of enrollment into HBCUs among young African Americans and praised Meredith for courageously continuing his education despite threatening conditions.

“For you to come in a hostile environment without the support and still make it is a testament to your ability,” said Towner.

After Towner raised the topic of young blacks not taking advantage of the path created by their forefathers to pursue lucrative professions, Meredith gave a profound response. He attributed black Christian women for African Americans being able to have access to education in the past.

There’s something that made it possible for us to do as well as we did,” Meredith said.

“…The black religious Christian women guided us and they have been completely taken out of the education process…Unless the Bible takes a serious place back in the lives of black people, we are on a downward moral trend and we’ve got to raise it up.”

Blake, a medical doctor and Coahoma Agricultural High School grad, reflected on Meredith’s attendance at Ole Miss as a somewhat isolated student always having to be guarded by National Guardsmen while navigating the Ole Miss campus and not being allowed to attend games.

He expressed that he was determined to get to know Meredith, who became inspiration for him to complete his degree at the University of Mississippi when he considered withdrawing from the institution.

“One of the most important things is we are so fortunate to be blessed with is the fact that he is still alive,” said Blake.