In this WSB newsfilm clip from 1964, an unidentified reporter interviews history professor James W. Silver of the University of Mississippi about race relations in Oxford, Mississippi.
The clip begins in the middle of a comment by Professor James W. Silver to the unidentified reporter. Silver indicates that he is less pessimistic about race relations in Mississippi than he was several months ago, in part because he feels the people of Mississippi know changes are coming rapidly. Silver goes on to recognize that city and state officials in Mississippi have not changed their stance towards African American civil rights and integration.
Asked about student opinions of the integration of the University of Mississippi, Silver clarifies that the school is not currently integrated. While James Meredith was admitted to the school in October 1962, he graduated in August 1963, and the second African American student admitted, Cleve McDonald, was expelled from the school September 24, 1963 for "perfectly legal reasons," according to Silver. He continues, expressing the students' preference for not being the center of media attention and for maintaining the University as it is, although Silver recognizes it will be impossible to do so. He adds that he is unaware of any more African Americans applying to enter the school at this time.
After a break in the clip, the reporter conducts a sound test before turning back to Silver and asking him if he advocates more integration in his classroom teaching. Silver replies that he does not consider himself a "propagandist," but as a teacher of history, feels the need to prepare students for "the inevitability of things to come which includes desegregation, and which somebody has to find some way to prepare Mississippi for." Asked about student reaction, Silver explains that he allows students to have their opinions and does not shove his views down anyone's throat. The reporter asks Silver if his recognition of the inevitability of integration jeopardizes his position at the University of Mississippi, to which Silver responds that he cannot predict the future and defers to the people of Mississippi, the Board of Trustees, and the legislature. He does admit that there has been "agitation to get rid of me for a good many years." Finally, the reporter asks Silver what he thinks of the United States president Lyndon Johnson being a Southerner. Silver believes it is inevitable for the extremist leadership in Alabama and Mississippi to turn against Johnson because the president has pledged to follow Kennedy's civil rights program. The clip ends with the reporter asking a question that is not completely recorded.
History professor James W. Silver began teaching at the University of Mississippi in 1936. Although Silver was born in the North, his wife was from Alabama and a graduate of "Ole Miss," as the University of Mississippi is commonly known. Silver's liberal approach to race relations included supporting James Meredith after the University's integration. In his farewell address to the Southern Historical Association at the end of his term as association president in November 1963, Silver called Mississippi a "closed society" and compared its actions in response to the Civil Rights movement to its actions before and during the Civil War. Mississippi officials, outraged at Silver's comments, began demanding his removal from the school. University trustees created a committee to gather evidence to fire Silver even though he had been tenured for more than twenty years. The committee mailed Silver the charges against him in late April 1964. Silver arranged for a leave of absence to teach at Notre Dame University that fall and left before the trustees had a chance to review the charges against him. Silver never returned to teaching at the University of Mississippi, instead teaching at Notre Dame and the University of South Florida until the end of his career.
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The Civil Rights Digital Library received support from a National Leadership Grant for Libraries awarded to the University of Georgia by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for digital conversion and description of the WSB-TV Newsfilm Collection.
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Cite as: WSB-TV newsfilm clip of a reporter interviewing University of Mississippi history professor James W. Silver about Mississippi race relations in Oxford, Mississippi, 1964, WSB-TV newsfilm collection, reel 1131, 11:47/16:31, Walter J. Brown Media Archives and Peabody Awards Collection, The University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Ga, as presented in the Digital Library of Georgia.