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ESPN Films Ghosts of Ole Miss: Documentary Casts Light on Chaotic Time

Photo Credit: AP
Photo Credit: AP
Ryan RudnanskySenior Writer IOctober 31, 2012

His name was James Meredith.

It was the Ole Miss football team.

The rest is history.

When Meredith became the first black student at Ole Miss in 1962, he walked into a school that quickly turned violent. Rioting left two people dead.

But ESPN Films' latest installment in the 30 for 30 series, Ghosts of Ole Miss, focuses not only on the horrors that sprang from campus, but on some of the rays of promise that resulted from the ugly year.

When a statue commemorating Meredith was unveiled 10 years ago, civil rights activist Myrlie Evers Williams said, via the Clarion-Ledger, “Yes, Mississippi was. But Mississippi is.”

It's a quote meant to remind us how far Mississippi has come since the 1960s. It's also a quote meant to remind us to never forget about the riot that took place on Oct. 1, 1962, when Meredith walked onto campus.

Of course, during this whole ordeal, the Ole Miss football team had a season to play. Amid all the chaos and distractions, the Rebels ended up posting the only undefeated season in their school's history.

Here was Meredith, getting lambasted every day with cruelty and unforgivable words, and here was the Ole Miss football team, there in the middle of all of it.

Even with the revealing documentary on Tuesday night, it's hard to fathom the kind of turmoil that swirled around Ole Miss every day that school year. Those who weren't there will never be able to truly understand what it felt like.

But, with the help of writer and Oxford resident Wright Thompson, ESPN Films was able to transport us back to a time when dark days swept over Ole Miss, when one black man courageously stood firm amid the backlash and a football team ironically posted its best season to date when so much wrong surrounded it day in and day out.

It's a story filled with pain, as well as a story that reminds us that progress can be made when all seems lost.


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