Biloxians frame Mississippi past on PBS

An award-winning documentary that sheds light on Mississippi Governor Barnett’s behind-the-scenes posturing surrounding the enrollment of James Meredith to the University of Mississippi in 1962, the resulting riots on the Ole Miss campus, and the unlikely appearance by former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy on campus four years later gets a national airing on PBS this evening.

“You Asked for the Facts: Bobby Kennedy at the University of Mississippi” is the work of Biloxi native and independent filmmaker Mary Blessey and includes recollections from her father, former Biloxi Mayor Gerald Blessey, who was a student at Ole Miss and helped engineer Kennedy’s appearance in 1966.

The 55-minute documentary, which airs on “Reel South” this evening (Mississippi Public Broadcasting at 8 p.m.), has received rave reviews since making its first festival appearance at the Oxford Film Festival in Oxford, MS last year. Other notable screenings include the March On Washington Film Festival in Washington D.C. and the San Diego International Film Festival, where Blessey took home the “Artistic Director’s Award” for the film.

After recapping the backstory of the admission of James Meredith at Ole Miss and opposition by segregationist Mississippi Gov. Ross Barnett, the film dives into the controversy surrounding RFK’s appearance at the school four years later. The stage is set for a group of Ole Miss law students, including the future Biloxi mayor, to draw attention to the political subterfuge of the time by inviting the former Attorney General to Oxford, violating a statewide “Speaker Ban” that was later ruled unconstitutional.

“This film tells a lesser known slice of Mississippi history that has only become increasingly timely since we started working on the project,” says Mary Blessey, who produced and directed the documentary.

The documentary draws its title, “You Asked For The Facts,” from a comment Kennedy made during the live question-and-answer session during his appearance at Ole Miss.
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