The Price of Defiance

James Meredith and the Integration of Ole Miss

By Charles W. Eagles

584 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-1394-9
    Published: February 2014
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-9559-7
    Published: November 2009

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Awards & distinctions

2010 Lillian Smith Book Award, Southern Regional Council

2010 McLemore Prize, Mississippi Historical Society

2009 Mississippi Humanities Council Special Recognition Award

2010 Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Nonfiction

When James Meredith enrolled as the first African American student at the University of Mississippi in 1962, the resulting riots produced more casualties than any other clash of the civil rights era. Eagles shows that the violence resulted from the university's and the state's long defiance of the civil rights movement and federal law. Ultimately, the price of such behavior--the price of defiance--was not only the murderous riot that rocked the nation and almost closed the university but also the nation's enduring scorn for Ole Miss and Mississippi. Eagles paints a remarkable portrait of Meredith himself by describing his unusual family background, his personal values, and his service in the U.S. Air Force, all of which prepared him for his experience at Ole Miss.

About the Author

Charles W. Eagles has taught history at the University of Mississippi since 1983. His books include Outside Agitator: Jon Daniels and the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama and The Civil Rights Movement in America.
For more information about Charles W. Eagles, visit the Author Page.


"With painstaking research and detail, Eagles explores the university's history, from its founding in 1848 as an alternative to Northern universities, where students might be exposed to abolitionist ideas. . . . Traces the legal and political standoff before Meredith's first day on campus and the university's eventual confrontation, with the fatal riot that ensued."--Publishers Weekly

"While there have been previous studies of this period, Charles W. Eagles had access to previously unavailable federal and state records, and personal records."--Inside Higher Ed

"[A] definitive history of James H. Meredith's 1962 violent integration of the all-white university. . . . Provides a perspective only a dedicated historian can do, tapping deeply into sources, files and unknown documents to bring alive one of the historical civil rights moments of the 20th century."--Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

"To appreciate Meredith's struggle, one must situate him in the culture of 1960s Mississippi, effectively re-created by Eagles, who details the university's segregated way of life regarding everything from sports to beauty pageants while also meticulously presenting the court proceedings."--Library Journal

"Simply put, this is the best study of this dramatic episode we have. . . . An invaluable contribution to our understanding of an important, complex, arguably pivotal moment in American history."--History News Network

"Eagles places the events of the fall of 1962 in the context of the times. . . . His narrative description of the years leading up to 1960 should be required reading for every Mississippi high school senior. . . . Nuanced, fully researched, comprehensive, and written in a way that conveys the immediacy of the events."--Jackson Free Press