¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 The narrative of Oxford Town centers on the events that took place at the University of Mississippi in 1963. “Ole Miss” is located a mile from the town of Oxford, Mississippi, 75 miles south of Memphis, Tennessee.
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 James Meredith, a U.S. Air Force veteran, was the first black student to enroll at Ole Miss. Many Mississippians, including Mississipi’s governer Ross Barnett, pledged to keep the university segregated by “whatever means necessary”.
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 After it became obvious trouble was brewing, Attorney General Robert Kennedy sent federal marshals to protect Meredith. Riots ensued. One hundred sixty marshals were wounded and two bystanders were killed.
¶ 6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Dylan sings the song in a matter-of-fact manner that suggests that the narrator is not terribly surprised or saddened about what happened. “He come in to the door, he couldn’t get in/All because of the color of his skin/What do you think about that, my friend”. The tune itself, which Dylan described in the liner notes as a “banjo tune”, is happy and jaunty, in ironic contrast to the seriousness of the song’s theme.
¶ 7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 “Me and my gal” could be read as Dylan referring to himself and his girlfriend at the time, Suze Rotolo, who was involved in the civil right movement and was at least partially responsible for getting Dylan semi-involved. The lines “I don’t even know why we come/Goin’ back were we come from” clearly point an accusatory finger at some civil rights workers lack of commitment to the cause. The listener is encouraged to examine his own commitment.
¶ 8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 It’s hard to believe but Meredith is now a staunch Republican and – even more unbelievably – served as a policy adviser to none other than Jesse Helms, the ultra-conservative, race-baiting former senator from North Carolina. Couldn’t make this stuff up.
¶ 10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 Oxford Town is a wonderful song. It’s a shame that Dylan has only performed it live once, in Oxford, in 1990. Those interested in investigating the song further should seek out Betsy Bowden’s Performed Literature.