A Sense of Where We Are: Oxford Town

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Oxford, Mississippi—Expect a longer post on Oxford; it may be the single most complex and fascinating place we’ve stopped in the South. For now, though, I’ll just offer up a question: In the last half century of American history, has anyone had a more improbable career arc than James Meredith?

After successfully becoming the first black student at Ole Miss in 1962 and then getting shot while walking across the state, Meredith went on to work for bigoted North Carolina senator Jesse Helms, and endorsed KKK leader David Duke’s campaign for governor of Louisiana. The closest comparable I can think of would be Eldridge Cleaver—from Black Panther icon to protege of Glenn Beck’s idol, W. Cleon Skousen—but I’m not sure that really comes close. Anyways, let me know who I’ve missed in the comments.

  • Tim Murphy is a senior reporter at Mother Jones. Reach him at tmurphy@motherjones.com.

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