James Meredith, the first black man to brave the colour bar at the University of Mississippi, has been shot and wounded after entering Mississippi on a civil rights march.
Police have arrested a 41-year-old white man named Aubrey James Norvell from Memphis on suspicion of carrying out the shooting.
The 32-year-old civil rights activist began his solo 220-mile March against Fear yesterday in Memphis and was heading for Jackson to show his fellow black citizens how to stand up to white authority and also to encourage them to register to vote.
At Hernando, Mississippi – 30 miles from his starting point – he saw an armed man aim at him and dived to the ground, but he was shot three times. Bleeding from the head, shoulder and leg he shouted: “Oh my God.”
FBI agents and reporters who were following the march witnessed the ambush.
An ambulance took him to hospital where doctors later said his wounds were not serious.
Fight to enter university
In 1961 Mr Meredith became an icon for the civil rights movement when he applied to the University of Mississippi and was rejected on racial grounds.
The NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) then brought a suit in a federal court which granted him the right to enrol.
When he arrived to do so he was turned away by the university authorities and by the governor of Mississippi.
A court injunction for contempt removed this barrier but a white mob stopped him entering the university.
After a riot in which two people were killed and 375 were wounded, President Kennedy sent 3,000 troops to restore order and allow Mr Meredith to register as a student.
He graduated in 1963 and recently published his experiences in a book called Three Years in Mississippi.