50 Years of Integration Began With Jewish Student's Editorial

Melvin Meyer Risked All With 1962 Alabama Plea for Justice

Campus Revolutionaries: Melvin Meyer (far right) edited the University of Alabama’s Crimson White with Robbie Roberts (middle) and Harve Mossawir.
courtesy of university of alabama
Campus Revolutionaries: Melvin Meyer (far right) edited the University of Alabama’s Crimson White with Robbie Roberts (middle) and Harve Mossawir.

By Dina Weinstein

Published February 04, 2013, issue of February 08, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

In 1962, a straight-A University of Alabama student named Melvin Meyer became a lightning rod of controversy when he published an editorial in the Crimson White, Alabama’s student newspaper, that countered the bigotry that was roiling the American south at the time.

Meyer, a Jew from Starkville, Miss., was responding to the escalating tensions in his home state following James Meredith’s attempts to enroll as the first black student at the University of Mississippi. The editorial, which urged integration at Ole Miss and elsewhere, earned Meyer the anti-Semitic ire of Ku Klux Klan sympathizers. It also placed him in the crosshairs of Klan members and segregationist leaders in the South, including Alabama Governor George Wallace. And it ultimately led him on a path to Sufi Islam.

Today, Meyer, who goes by Murshid Wali Ali Meyer, is a little-known civil rights figure. But his editorial’s argument for equality still resonates decades after the apex of the civil rights movement.

“I was never an activist,” Meyer told the Forward from his San Francisco home. “But the whole experience made me more socially conscious.”

In 1962, just eight years after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling, which ended legal segregation in public schools, universities across the American south were experiencing the tumult of integration. James Meredith, who would later go on to become a leader of the civil rights movement, applied to and was rejected from the University of Mississippi in 1961. The NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund filed suit against the university on his behalf, alleging that he was rejected because of his skin color. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled that Meredith should be admitted. But in September 1962, Meredith was barred from entering the school.

At the University of Alabama, students, faculty and administrators watched the unfolding drama at Ole Miss and sensed that their school would be the next to integrate. (In 1956, Alabama did admit one black student under court order, Autherine Lucy, but she was later expelled for political reasons.)


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • Pierre Dulaine wants to do in his hometown of Jaffa what he did for kids in Manhattan: teach them to dance.
  • "The first time I met Mick Jagger, I said, 'Those are the tackiest shoes I’ve ever seen.'” Jewish music journalist Lisa Robinson remembers the glory days of rock in her new book, "There Goes Gravity."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.