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The March Against Fear was a major 1966 demonstration in the Civil Rights Movement in the South. Activist James Meredith launched the event on June 5, 1966, intending to make a solitary walk from Memphis, Tennessee, to Jackson, Mississippi via the Mississippi Delta, starting at Memphis's Peabody Hotel and proceeding to the Mississippi state line, then continuing through, respectively, the Mississippi cities of Hernando, Grenada, Greenwood, Indianola, Belzoni, Yazoo City, and Canton before arriving at Jackson's City Hall. The total distance marched was approximately 270 miles over a period of 21 days. The goal was to counter the continuing racism in the Mississippi Delta after passage of federal civil rights legislation in the previous two years and to encourage African Americans in the state to register to vote. He invited only individual black men to join him and did not want it to be a large media event dominated by major civil rights organizations.
|March Against Fear|
|Part of the Civil Rights Movement|
|Date||June 5 – June 26, 1966|
State of Mississippi
City of Oxford
On the second day of his walk, June 6, 1966, Meredith was shot and wounded by James Aubrey Norvell, a white sniper, and was hospitalized for treatment. Thornton Davi Johnson suggests that Meredith was a target for such rituals of attack because he had made highly publicized challenges to Mississippi's racial order, and had framed his walk as a confident repudiation of custom.
Major civil rights organizations rallied to the cause, vowing to carry on the march in Meredith's name through the Mississippi Delta and to the state capital. The state committed to protecting the marchers. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP), the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR) took part, with Deacons for Defense and Justice from Louisiana providing armed protection. The different groups and leaders struggled over tactics and goals, but also cooperated in community organizing and voter registration. They registered more than 4,000 African Americans for voting in counties along the way. Some people marched for a short time, others stayed through all the events; some national leaders took part in intermittent fashion, as they already had commitments in other cities. In addition, labor leader Walter Reuther, along with his wife May, had traveled from Chicago to march and brought 10 buses full of union supporters.
During the latter days of the march, Stokely Carmichael, the new chairman of SNCC, introduced the idea of Black Power to a broad audience. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. participated and continued to attract admiring crowds; his leadership and reputation brought numerous people out to see him, inspiring some to join the march. As the march headed south, the number of participants grew. Finally, an estimated 15,000 mostly black marchers entered the capital of Jackson on June 26, making it the largest civil rights march in the history of the state. The march served as a catalyst for continued community organizing and political growth over the following years among African Americans in the state. They have maintained a high rate of voting and participation in politics since then.
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