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Tom  Dent
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Tom Dent, "Portrait of Three Heroes." Freedomways,
January-June 1963.

I read some of the mail Jay [James Meredith, the first black student at Ole Miss] had received; there were boxes of letters in his bedroom. White southerners, Negroes from the north and south, soldiers, school children, college students and student-associations, foreign students, social workers (the most predictable, self-conscious letters), religious crackpots, race baiters and race haters—all wrote. Meredith had touched something deep in these people.

The ones that most moved me were from white southern youths. They couldnít ignore the realities of racial oppression any longer and they felt guilty about it. The letters appeared to be attempts to somehow expiate their guilt: ìGo boy go, we canít tell our friends how we feel, but weíre for you.î

Copyright © The Estate of Tom Dent.  Selected from the Library of America anthology.  See  Reporting  Civil  Rights:  American Journalism 1941-1963.