Friday, January 15, 2021

Meredith Anding

 I read the Globe yesterday and found myself--as is not atypical--looking through the obituaries.  I scanned the small entries and then went to the page where national figures of some note are eulogized.  I was taken aback when I saw a headline for a person named Meredith Anding.

In the mid 70s I worked with a fellow named Meredith Anding.  How many Meredith Andings could there be?  I started reading the obituary and thought that this is not the Meredith I knew.  First of all, the Meredith I knew was the head of the Math unit in the Learning Center at the University of Buffalo. I worked in the Communication unit and, since the Center was small enough, knew Meredith well enough.  

The person in the obituary was a Mississippi civil rights activist and leader. He was a member of a group called the Tougaloo Nine.  I'd never--I'm a bit embarrassed to write--heard of the Tougaloo Nine.  In 1961 a group of nine students at Tougaloo College were upset because the library that blacks were allowed to visit in Jackson Mississippi did not have the kind of selection that the whites only library in Jackson had. The nine students went to the blacks only library and asked for books they knew were not there.  Then they went to the whites only library and staged what was called a "read-in".  They sat in the library and despite being asked to leave, remained seated until they were arrested.  The 'read-in" was described in the obituary as the "first student protest of segregation at a public institution in Mississippi."   The students were arrested.   

This couldn't be the same guy.  The man I knew was a soft spoken fellow who always showed up to work with an old fashioned briefcase, the kind I was saddled with as a third grader that was bigger than me.  He was hardly a boastful fellow though he had, from accounts from my colleagues, a good deal to boast about. The Math unit was one of the stronger ones in the Learning Center. He not only coordinated the program, but supervised the instructors who taught Math for the Center.  

There was a photo of the civil rights leader that accompanied the obituary and that Meredith Anding looked leaner than the man I knew. Plus the man in the photo had white hair which, for those of us who are fortunate to have hair at all, is what happens to hair when you are eligible for full social security benefits.  

I continued reading the obituary and nearly jolted from the chair when I read that civil rights activist Meredith Anding had in the late 60s or early 70s moved from Mississippi to Buffalo, New York where he completed graduate studies in Math and subsequently taught at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Ye gods.  It was the same Meredith Anding!  I started looking him up on Google and there were mug shots of him after he had been arrested for reading in a library.

The Wikipedia entry includes the following:  

"Unlike the Freedom RidersFriendship Nine, and Little Rock Nine, the Tougaloo Nine are not as well known historically. Sammy Bradford, one of the Tougaloo Nine, said on the occasion of the read-in anniversary: "It seems that everybody is being celebrated and praised for their fine work except the very people who launched the civil rights movement against some of the greatest odds ever faced by man or beast. I'm not saying that the Tougaloo Nine should be rolled out like world-conquering heroes in a ticker-tape parade every year, but they should at least be acknowledged, along with many others, whenever a purported celebration of civil rights activities in Mississippi takes place."  

Yes, they should.  I do not remember anyone at the Learning Center ever mentioning Meredith's past.  There were several occasions when the unit leaders would be introduced and I have to think I would have recalled a reference to his activism, if it had been mentioned.

Meredith Anding was only 79 when he died of leukemia on the 8th of January. I don't want anyone to ever write my obituary because that would mean that I would be dead--an event I do not look forward to.  However, it would be good if after I am gone I will have made a dent in the world as this quiet courageous man did in Mississippi and then again as a Math Instructor at the University of Buffalo.

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