The Man Mississippi Sent to Prison for Attempting to Racially Integrate the State’s System of Higher Education

Clyde Kennard

He was falsely charged with a crime after he sought to integrate the University of Southern Mississippi

The Mississippi State Senate recently passed a resolution honoring Clyde Kennard, the black student who first sought to break the color barrier at the University of Southern Mississippi. Kennard, a Korean War veteran, was a junior at the University of Chicago in 1960 when he applied to transfer to the University of Southern Mississippi. His application was denied citing irregularities in his paperwork. When Kennard met with university officials in an attempt to correct the irregularities, they questioned whether he had the moral character to enter the university. Soon after he left campus he was arrested on charges of reckless driving and possession of unlawful liquor. He was subsequently charged with stealing $25 worth of chicken feed. Kennard was convicted on this charge by an all-white jury and sentenced to seven years at the notorious Parchman prison farm. While imprisoned he contracted intestinal cancer. He was released from prison just prior to his death in 1963.

Recently, the man who was the only witness of substance at Kennard’s trial recanted previous testimony and declared that Kennard had been framed, undoubtedly so he would be forced to give up his attempt to racially integrate the University of Southern Mississippi.

The recent Senate resolution stopped short of stating that Kennard was innocent of all charges. Mississippi state attorneys recommended that such language be stripped from the resolution.

Copyright © 2006. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.