28 Days Of Black History Day #2 Medgar Evers
Medgar Wiley Evers (July 2, 1925 – June 12, 1963) was an African-American civil rights activist from Mississippi involved in efforts to overturn segregation at the University of Mississippi. After returning from overseas military service in World War II and completing his secondary education, he became active in the civil rights movement. He became a field secretary for the NAACP.
Evers was assassinated by Byron De La Beckwith, a member of the White Citizens’ Council. As a veteran, Evers was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. His murder and the resulting trials inspired civil rights protests, as well as numerous works of art, music, and film.
Evers’s legacy has been kept alive in a variety of ways. Evers was memorialized by leading Mississippi and national authors, both black and white: Eudora Welty, James Baldwin, Margaret Walker and Anne Moody. In 1963, he was awarded the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP. In 1969, Medgar Evers College was established in Brooklyn, New York as part of the City University of New York. Evers’s widow, Myrlie Evers co-wrote the book For Us, the Living with William Peters in 1967. In 1983, a movie was made based on the book. Celebrating Evers’s life and career, it starred Howard Rollins, Jr. and Irene Cara as Medgar and Myrlie Evers, airing on PBS. The film won the Writers Guild of America award for Best Adapted Drama. On June 28, 1992, the city of Jackson, Mississippi erected a statue in honor of Evers. All of Delta Drive (part of U.S. Highway 49) in Jackson was renamed in Evers’ honor. In December 2004, the Jackson City Council changed the name of the city’s airport to “Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport” (Jackson-Evers International Airport) in honor of him.
Statue at Medgar Evers Boulevard Library in Jackson, Mississippi.
His widow Myrlie Evers became a noted activist in her own right later in life, eventually serving as chair of the NAACP. Medgar’s brother Charles Evers returned to Jackson in July 1963 and served briefly in his slain brother’s place. He remained involved in Mississippi civil rights activities for many years and resides in Jackson.
On the 40-year anniversary of Evers’ assassination, hundreds of civil rights veterans, government officials, and students from across the country gathered around his grave site at Arlington National Cemetery to celebrate his life and legacy. Barry Bradford and three students—Sharmistha Dev, Jajah Wu and Debra Siegel, formerly of Adlai E. Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois—planned and hosted the commemoration in his honor. Evers was the subject of the students’ research project.
In October 2009, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, a former Mississippi governor, announced that USNS Medgar Evers (T-AKE-13), a Lewis and Clark-class dry cargo ship, would be named in the activist’s honor. The ship was christened by Myrlie Evers-Williams on November 12, 2011.
In June of 2013, a statue of Evers was erected at his alma mater, Alcorn State University, to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of his death. Alumni and guests from around the world gathered to recognize his contributions to American society.
Evers was further honored in a tribute at Arlington National Cemetery on the 50th anniversary of his death. Former President Bill Clinton, Attorney General Eric Holder, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, Senator Roger Wicker and NAACP President Benjamin Todd Jealous all spoke commemorating Evers. Evers’ widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams, who also honored her late husband, spoke on his contributions to the advancement of civil rights:
“Medgar was a man who never wanted aberration, who never wanted to be in the limelight. He was a man who saw a job that needed to be done and he answered the call and the fight for freedom, dignity and justice not just for his people but all people.”