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Court Partners with FBA to Present a Dramatic Reenactment of James Meredith’s Integration of the University of Mississippi

Release Date: 
Friday, December 8, 2023

Cover Photo: Copyright Suzi Altman

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana partnered with the New Orleans Chapter of the Federal Bar Association to present a dramatic reenactment of the historic events leading to the integration of the University of Mississippi. James Meredith, the then-student who integrated the University, participated in the event, which also recounted the heroics of Constance Baker Motley (Meredith’s attorney) and Judge John Minor Wisdom, one of several judges who authored courageous desegregation decisions at the time. 

Under the direction of U.S. Magistrate Judge Janis van Meerveld and performing a script co-authored by U.S. Second Circuit Judge Denny Chin and his wife Kathy Hirata Chin, a cast of federal judges and other distinguished guests reenacted the court proceedings involved in Meredith’s quest to become the first Black student admitted to the university in the 1960s. The script drew heavily from actual transcripts from the legal proceedings and was accompanied by photographs of the events as they unfolded. These real-life touches transported the audience back in time to the segregated South that Judge Wisdom (played by Chief Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown) described as “the eerie atmosphere of never-never land.” Compelling, historic, thought-provoking, infuriating, and timely, the performance received a standing ovation from the capacity crowd, as did Mr. Meredith when he was introduced to the audience to add his commentary.

Following the performance, a panel featuring U.S. Fifth Circuit Judge Dana Douglas, U.S. Magistrate Judge designee Eva Dossier, and Federal Public Defender Claude Kelly shared ethics and professionalism insights drawn from the events. Attendees who filled the Court’s en banc courtroom for the performance then had the opportunity to visit with Mr. Meredith and the distinguished cast of Judges and other prominent members of the bar. The program and accompanying panel discussion continued the success of the FBA’s long-running Alvin B. Rubin Symposium, which honors Judge Rubin who served as a U.S. district and appellate judge and authored several key civil rights opinions.

For the full video of the performance, please click here to use this link.

Photo gallery of the event by photographer Suzi Altman.