New Historical Marker Honors First Black Student to Apply to the University of Southern Mississippi

A new historical marker on the Mississippi Freedom Trail has been erected on the campus of the University of Southern Mississippi. The historical marker honors Clyde Kennard, the first African-American student known to apply for admission to the University of Southern Mississippi.

Kennard served in the U.S. Army in Germany and Korea. After his discharge, he returned to Mississippi to run the family farm. In 1955, he applied for admission to what was then Mississippi Southern College and was denied. In 1959, he applied again and was rejected.

In retaliation for challenging the rules of Jim Crow, Kennard was arrested and wrongly accused of the theft of $25 of chicken feed. After 10 minutes of deliberation, an all-White jury convicted Kennard and sentenced him to seven years in the state penitentiary. He died four years later from cancer.

A later investigation found that Kennard was innocent and had been framed for the theft. His conviction was overturned in 2006.

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