It was a scene that would have been unfathomable a generation ago. But 50 years after federal troops were called to assist James Meredith in becoming the first Black student at the University of Mississippi, the school known as Ole Miss crowned its first African-American homecoming queen.
Courtney Roxanne Pearson, a senior majoring in English, was elected to have that distinct honor at the historic campus in Mississippi.
Pearson said she considers her election to be a landmark, not only because of her being African-American, but also because she is not a member of any of the university’s sororities.
“I feel like it's an inspiration for others to be like, 'there's nothing that can hold me back, not my race, not my greekness, or my non-greekness — whatever it is that I want to do, I can do it,'” Pearson said.
She added that her accomplishment comes at a poignant time. She was elected 50 years after Meredith was escorted by federal marshals to enroll as the first Black student to attend the University of Mississippi, which ended a standoff between the state’s governor, Ross Barnett, and President John F. Kennedy.
“I am still in shock, but I am definitely very excited,” said Pearson, who beat a white student to wear the crown by a vote of 1,477 to 1,387 in a victory that opens a new chapter in race relations for the University of Mississippi.
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