CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., Sept. 20, 2012 – Dr. Robert W. Hamblin, professor of English and director of the Center for Faulkner Studies at Southeast Missouri State University, will return to his alma mater, the University of Mississippi, on Wednesday, Sept. 26, to deliver a lecture on the racial integration of the school in the 1960s.
Hamblin’s lecture, “Legacies of the Battles of Ole Miss: The James Meredith Crisis and the 1965 Southern Literary Festival,” will present Hamblin’s personal recollections of the riot that occurred when Meredith became the first African American to be enrolled in the university in 1962, as well as the near-riot that accompanied the attendance of several black students from Tougaloo College at the 1965 literary program hosted by Ole Miss.
In 1962, Hamblin was a first-year graduate student at the University of Mississippi and a member of the Mississippi National Guard federalized by President John F. Kennedy and ordered to the campus to quell the Sept. 30 riot that accompanied Meredith’s enrollment. Called by historians the “Battle of Oxford” and the “Insurrection at Ole Miss,” that riot, which left two people dead and caused tremendous physical and psychological damage to the university, is today considered one of the last-gasp efforts of segregationists to prevent the integration of Southern schools.
In 1965, when Hamblin was in his final year of graduate study at Ole Miss, he served as the personal escort for Robert Penn Warren, one of the featured presenters at the Southern Literary Festival, and observed Warren’s and the university’s reaction to demands that the Festival be cancelled after the Tougaloo students were endangered by an angry mob.
Hamblin has previously written and lectured on both of these incidents, and his essay on the second, “The 1965 Southern Literary Festival: A Microcosm of the Civil Rights Movement,” was awarded the 1991 Willie D. Halsell Prize from the Mississippi Historical Society for the best article of the year published in the Journal of Mississippi History.
Hamblin’s lecture is a part of a series of special programs Ole Miss is presenting this fall, “Celebrating 50 Years of Integration.”