Student Printz (March 20, 1964)
(Click on image to enlarge)
Looking at it today, the significance of the front page shown above might be
easily overlooked. The lead article deals with a proposal that would reduce
the fines for traffic violations on campus, and the next most prominent emphasis
belongs to an article about students being injured in a car accident. The rest
of the page is filled with smaller articles about Greek life, baseball news,
the saga of a coed's contacts going down a drain, a change in the women's curfew,
and the new officers of the Yellow Jackets. This issue of the Student Printz
was archived in McCain Library for many years, but the real story behind it
has only recently come to light.
Earlier this year, another copy Student Printz with this date was donated
to the University Archives (see below). It was yellowed and tattered, so Archives
Specialist Yvonne Arnold compared its condition to the existing copy, with the
idea of keeping whichever was in better shape. Her sharp eyes soon noted an
even more important difference between the two copies. The issues were exactly
the same, except that two articles on the right side of the front page were
missing; in their place was an article titled "Frazier's attempt to matriculate
The full text of the article reads:
Negro John Frazier, seeking to gain admission into the University of Southern
Mississippi, was turned away at spring quarter registration, March 9. Frazier,
22, told a Printz photographer that school officials said he was not eligible
to register because he had not submitted an application for the spring quarter.
He then added that he was going to reapply for the summer quarter "following
the proper procedure." Earlier, Frazier said he planned to take court
action if he was not admitted for the spring term, but after failing to enroll
he said he had no plans for going to court to gain admission. There were no
incidents or crowds as the Negro was escorted onto campus and taken to the
student services building.
Both versions of that issue of the Student Printz were kept in the Archives,
and staff there was left to wonder about the story behind the change in content.
(Click on image to enlarge)
In a stroke of both serendipity and irony, Charles Kershner (editor of the
Student Printz in 1964) was scheduled to speak at a Social Justice and
the News symposium at USM in November 2007, the same week that John Frazier
was scheduled to be on campus to be a part of the Innovation Speaker Series
sponsored by the Trent Lott Center and the Center for Black Studies. Once the
coincidence was noticed, Frazier was quickly added to the symposium program.
Kershner and Frazier had never before met in person until they were together
on the platform. The men embraced in a powerful, emotionally charged moment.
Then, they revealed the story behind these two versions of the paper.
As Kershner told it, the version with the article on Frazier was the one first
distributed on campus. USM President McCain ordered the confiscation of every
copy of the paper, and this order was carried out on March 20, 1964. A Printz
photographer tried to take a picture of the papers being taken, but was warned
away by campus security. Patrolmen seized all the copies they could find in
the Printz offices and across campus, even interrupting classes to conduct
their work. All of the papers were burned in USM's steam plant furnace.
All, that is, except a few copies hidden carefully away by Student Printz
staff. A decision was made to replace page one of the March 20th issue and redistribute
it three days later. The only difference was the removal of the Frazier article.
No explanation was ever given for the order to confiscate the papers. The story
was picked up nationally, but not covered by the local press. The incident had
a chilling effect on the journalism classes, and a lasting influence on Charles
Kershner received a letter from Frazier after the incident, thanking the Printz
for the objective coverage in the original issue. In part, the letter read:
"the officials of your school may confiscate your paper, but they cannot
confiscate your minds and your ability to think for yourselves." The letter
was later stolen from Kershner's locked desk drawer, but luckily, in these days
before modern copy machines, he'd had the forethought to type a copy of it himself.
While on campus, Frazier reflected on life "coming full circle",
noting that he was terrified when he came to USM's campus in 1964. He read from
the Sovereignty Commission's records about himself, with their unfounded accusations
of homosexuality in their efforts to thwart his attendance at USM. (This was
a much more serious accusation than it is today.) Speaking of his attempt to
attend USM, Frazier said, "I had a right to an education….It was the
right thing to do….Everybody has a right to an education."
On this visit to USM, he experienced "excitement, awe, a lot of hope…..This
is a totally different University of Southern Mississippi….I stand in awe"
of USM's progress since the 60s. Frazier also announced that he will be donating
his papers to USM, saying that he is "humbled and honored" to have
them preserved here.
Frazier emphasized what his life illustrates: "You don't have to stop
at the point where you are rejected….In the midst of insanity, you confront
it, you make it humorous, you laugh at it….You do not allow it to define
who you are, what you are, or what your potential is."
Charles Kershner transferred to USM (then Mississippi Southern College) in
1962, and stayed for three years. He was executive editor of the Student
Printz for one year and graduated with a B.A. in Journalism and English.
He is now president and executive editor of the Clinton Courier in Clinton,
New York. In November 2007, he was inducted into USM's School of Mass Communication
and Journalism Hall of Fame.
Frazier never attended USM. He graduated instead from Tougaloo College, and
then went on to Tufts University, Harvard University, and Oxford University.
He sat in the White House as the youngest person on the NAACP's board of directors,
and was senior policy officer for two sitting governors in North Carolina. He
is now a businessman there, but says, "I'm still a Mississippi boy, and
I don't apologize for that. I claim it as part of who I am."
If you are interested in viewing these newspapers, visit the 3rd floor of McCain
Library & Archives or contact Special Collections at 601.266.4345 or Ask-a-Librarian.
For more information about the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi:
Callejo-Pérez, David M. Southern hospitality: identity, schools,
and the civil rights movement in Mississippi, 1964-1972. New York : P. Lang,
2001. (Cook and McCain Libraries LC214.23 .H65 C35 2001)
Civil Rights in Mississippi Digital Archive
Civil Rights in Mississippi LibGuide
For more information about the Civil Rights Movement and Journalism:
Reporting civil rights. New York : Library of America : Distributed
to the trade in the U.S. by Penguin Putnam, 2003. (Gulf Coast Library E185.61
Senna, Carl. The black press and the struggle for civil rights. New
York : F. Watts, 1993. ( McCain Library PN4882.5 .S46 1993)
Weill, Susan. In a madhouse's din: civil rights coverage by Mississippi's
daily press, 1948-1968. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2002. (Cook, McCain, and
Gulf Coast Libraries E185.93 .M6 W35 2002)
Davies, David R. The press and race: Mississippi journalists confront the movement. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2001. (Cook, McCain, and Gulf Coast Libraries F350 .N4 M57 2001)
For more information about the history of the University of Southern Mississippi:
Hickman, Alma. Southern as I saw it. Hattiesburg: University of Southern
Mississippi Press, 1966. (Cook, McCain, and Gulf Coast Libraries LD3425 .H5)
Morgan, Chester M. Dearly bought, deeply treasured. Jackson: The University
Press of Mississippi, 1987. (Cook and McCain Libraries LD3425 .M67 1987)
Text for this "Item of the Month" prepared by
Diane DeCesare Ross.