October 19, 2012 Participant in 1962 University of Mississippi Race Riot Discusses His New Book
Author Was in Charge of Security Detail for James Meredith
Press Contact: Guy Lamolinara (202) 707-9217
Public Contact: Center for the Book (202) 707-5221
In September 1962, James Meredith became the first African American admitted to the University of Mississippi. A milestone in the civil rights movement, his admission triggered a riot spurred by a mob of 3,000 whites from across the South and all-but- officially stoked by the state’s segregationist authorities. The escalating conflict prompted President John F. Kennedy to send in 20,000 regular Army troops, in addition to federalized Mississippi National Guard soldiers, to restore law and order.
“James Meredith and the Ole Miss Riot” (University Press of Mississippi, 2012) is the memoir of one of the participants, a young Army second lieutenant named Henry T. Gallagher, born and raised in Minnesota.
Gallagher will discuss and sign his new book on Tuesday, Oct. 30, at noon in the Montpelier Room, located in the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. This Books & Beyond event is co-sponsored by the Library of Congress’s Center for the Book and the Publishing Office. It is free and open to the public; no tickets are required.
Gallagher’s military police battalion from New Jersey was deployed, without the benefit of riot-control practice or advance briefing, into a deadly civil rights confrontation. He was thereafter assigned as the officer-in-charge of Meredith’s security detail. The author’s first-person account considers the performance of his fellow soldiers before and after the riot. He writes of the behavior of the white students, some of them defiant, while others perceived a Communist-inspired Kennedy conspiracy in Meredith’s entry into Mississippi’s flagship university.
“James Meredith and the Ole Miss Riot” provides both a personal perspective on a pivotal moment in American history and an in-depth look at a unique home-front military action. Looking back 50 years after the riot, Gallagher reveals what it was like for a young man in the midst of one of U.S. history’s most profound tests – a soldier from the Midwest encountering the powder keg of the Old South and its violent racial divisions.
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