— Mississippi Freedom Trail —
On June 26, 1966, James Meredith's "March Against Fear" — led by Stokely Carmichael. Martin Luther King, Jr., Floyd McKissick, and others after Meredith was shot and wounded — ended its three-week trek from Memphis with a rally at the State Capitol. The crowd was estimated at 15,000, the largest civil rights demonstration in Mississippi history. Stirring speeches were delivered by King, Carmichael, McKissick, the wounded Meredith, and others. The March Against Fear — that brought together all the major civil rights figures and organizations and introduced into the movement the new urgency and energy of Black Power — ended that afternoon on a high point of black pride and solidarity.
The Capitol Rally
When James Meredith was shot and wounded in Hernando, Mississippi, on the second day of his "March Against Fear," major civil rights leaders gathered to continue the march. Large rallies were held along the way, during some of which marchers suffered attacks of violence; — in Greenwood, Philadephia, and Canton. When the rallies were widely covered in the national news, activists from across the country came to join the march on its last leg into Jackson. The marchers stopped at Tougaloo College, a historically black college, before entering Jackson. Even more people joined the march at that point; the growing crowd was entertained by James Brown, Dick Gregory, and other celebrities, including Marlon Brando, who spoke briefly.
The next day, June 26, marchers entered Jackson from several different streams, an estimated 15,000 strong, the largest civil rights demonstration in Mississippi history, led by movement luminaries—SNCC's Stokely Carmichael, SCLC's Martin Luther King, Jr. with his wife Coretta, CORE director Floyd McKissick, and James Meredith—as well as hundreds of dedicated veterans. They were welcomed by some, jeered at and threatened by others. At about 4:00 p.m., the marchers amassed at the back of the Capitol, as arranged by state officials—not the front—to hear speeches and join in freedom songs.
For about two hours the crowd heard speeches including Lawrence Guyot, Owen Brooks, Alvin Poussaint, Carmichael, McKissick, and King. SCLC minister Andrew Young was the rally's emcee throughout the afternoon. Speaker James Meredith was the crowd's favorite.
Students were prominent participants in both the 1965 Freedom Democratic Party-led protest at the Mississippi Capitol and the 1966 James Meredith March Against Fear. The protest at the Capitol in June-July 1965 was directed against the Mississippi Legislature. The state's legislators were in special session to repeal Mississippi's discriminatory voting laws. Even so, the protestors emphasized that the legislators had not been elected by a majority of voting age Mississippians. Protesters contended the legislature was an illegally constituted body, hence violating federal law. On June 14, 1965, approximately 500 protesters were at the Capitol and about half of them were teenagers. They were arrested by Jackson police and transported to the state fairgrounds in paddy wagons and garbage trucks. The protesters were incarcerated in facilities usually reserved for livestock.