The Past That Would Not Die
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Lord’s history of the 1962 Ole Miss riots, sparked by one man’s heroic stance against segregation in the American South On September 30, 1962, James H. Meredith matriculated at the University of Mississippi in Oxford. An air force veteran with sixty hours of transfer credits, Meredith would have been welcomed were it not for the color of his skin. As the first African-American student to register at a previously segregated school, however, he risked his life. The Supreme Court had determined that Oxford’s university must desegregate, and several hundred federal marshals came to support Meredith. It would not be enough. As President Kennedy called for peace, a riot exploded in Oxford. By eleven o’clock that night, the marshals were out of tear gas. By midnight, the highway patrol had pulled out, gunfire was spreading, and Kennedy was forced to send in the army. In this definitive history, Walter Lord argues that the riot was not an isolated incident, but a manifestation of racial hatred that was wrapped up in the state’s identity, stretching all the way back to the Civil War.“[Lord’s] account of the gathering storm at Oxford and Jackson is a marvel.” —The New York Times “A master narrator.” —Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. “[Lord uses] a kind of literary pointillism, the arrangement of contrasting bits of fact and emotion in such a fashion that a vividly real impression of an event is conveyed to the reader.” —New York Herald TribuneWalter Lord (1917–2002) was an acclaimed and bestselling author of literary nonfiction best known for his gripping and meticulously researched accounts of watershed historical events. Born in Baltimore, Lord went to work for the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. After the war’s end, Lord joined a New York advertising firm, and began writing nonfiction in his spare time. His first book was The Fremantle Diary (1954), a volume of Civil War diaries that became a surprising success. But it was Lord’s next book, A Night to Remember (1955), that made him famous. The bestseller caused a new flurry of interest in the Titanic and inspired the 1958 film of the same name. Lord went on to use the book’s interview-heavy format as a template for most of his following works, which included detailed reconstructions of the Pearl Harbor attack in Day of Infamy (1957), the battle of Midway in Incredible Victory (1967), and the integration of the University of Mississippi in The Past That Would Not Die (1965). In all, he published a dozen books.