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See also:
* Book Info:
Of Long Memory: Mississippi and the Murder of Medgar Evers, by Adam Nossiter
(June 2002)
 
* Writer News:
‘Ghosts of Mississippi’ recalls slain civil rights activist
(December 1996)
 

Home:  >Browse Listings   >Authors   >Evers, Medgar
Medgar Evers
Medgar Evers

Medgar Evers

Known today more for his struggles for civil rights in Mississippi and his untimely death at the hands of an assassin than for his writings, Medgar Evers nevertheless left behind an impressive record of achievement.

Medgar Wiley Evers was born July 2, 1925, near Decatur, Mississippi, and attended school there until he was inducted into the army in 1943. After serving in Normandy, he attended Alcorn College (now Alcorn State University), majoring in business administration. While at Alcorn, he was a member of the debate team, the college choir, and the football and track teams, and he also held several student offices and was editor of the campus newspaper for two years and the annual for one year. In recognition of his accomplishments at Alcorn, he was listed in Who’s Who in American Colleges.

At Alcorn he met Myrlie Beasley, of Vicksburg, and the next year, they were married on December 24, 1951. He received his B.A. degree the next semester and they moved to Mound Bayou, Mississippi, during which time Evers began to establish local chapters of the NAACP throughout the Delta and organizing boycotts of gasoline stations that refused to allow blacks to use their restrooms. He worked in Mound Bayou as an insurance agent until 1954, the year a Supreme Court decision ruled school segregation unconstitutional. Despite the court’s ruling, Evers applied for and was denied admission to the University of Mississippi Law School, but his attempt to integrate the state’s oldest public university attracted the attention of the NAACP’s national office, and that same year he was appointed Mississippi’s first field secretary for the NAACP.

Evers and his wife moved to Jackson, where they worked together to set up the NAACP office, and he began investigating violent crimes committed against blacks and sought ways to prevent them. His boycott of Jackson merchants in the early 1960s attracted national attention, and his efforts to have James Meredith admitted to the University of Mississippi in 1962 brought much-needed federal help for which he had been soliciting. Meredith was admitted to Ole Miss, a major step in securing civil rights in the state, but an ensuing riot on campus left two people dead, and Evers’ involvement in this and other activities increased the hatred many people felt toward Evers.

Related Links & Info

Evers met his future wife, Myrlie, at Alcorn College (now Alcorn State University).

NAACP
In 1954, Evers became the first field secretary for the NAACP in Mississippi.

 

Medgar Evers College
The name of Medgar Evers has been immortalized in many ways but perhaps none more so grandly than in Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College, a unit of the City University of New York.

 

Film: For Us the Living
Myrlie Evers’ book about her husband was made into a TV movie starring Howard Rollins.

 

Statue of Evers in Jackson
A statue of Medgar Evers was erected to honor him in his adopted hometown of Jackson on June 28, 1992.

“It may sound funny, but I love the South. I don’t choose to live anywhere else. There’s land here, where a man can raise cattle, and I’m going to do it some day. There are lakes where a man can sink a hook and fight the bass. There is room here for my children to play and grow, and become good citizens—if the white man will let them....
—Medgar Evers, “Why I Live in Mississippi”

On June 12, 1963, as he was returning home, Medgar Evers was killed by an assassin’s bullet. Black and white leaders from around the nation came to Jackson for his funeral and then gathered at Arlington National Cemetery for his interment. Following his death, his brother, Charles, took over Medgar’s position as state field secretary for the NAACP. The accused killer, a white supremacist named Byron De La Beckwith, stood trial twice in the 1960s, but in both cases the all-white juries could not reach a verdict. Finally, in a third trial in 1994 (and thirty-one years after Evers’ murder), Beckwith was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

The legacy of Medgar Evers is everywhere present in the Mississippi of today. This peaceful man, who had constantly urged that “violence is not the way” but who paid for his beliefs with his life, was a prominent voice in the struggle for civil rights in Mississippi. Many tributes have been paid to Medgar Evers over the years, including a book by his widow, For Us, the Living, but perhaps the greatest tribute can be found in changes noted in Mississippi Black History Makers: “Ten years after Medgar’s death the national office of the NAACP reported that Mississippi had 145 black elected officials and that blacks were enrolled in each of the state’s public and private institutions of higher learning.... In 1970, according to statistics compiled by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, more than one-fourth or 26.4 percent of black pupils in Mississippi public schools attended integrated schools with at least a 50 percent white enrollment. When Medgar died in 1963, only 28,000 blacks were registered voters. By 1971, there were 250,000 and by 1982 over 500,000.”

John B. Padgett

(Article first posted August 1997)
Updated September 2002

Publications

Nonfiction:

  • “Why I Live in Mississippi.” Ebony (November 1958). Rpt. in Mississippi Writers: Reflections of Childhood and Youth. Vol. II: Nonfiction. Ed. Dorothy Abbott. Center for the Study of Southern Culture Series. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1986. 209-10.

Media Productions

Motion Pictures and Television Programs:

  • For Us the Living: The Story of Medgar Evers. Dir. Michael Schultz. Screenplay by Ossie Davis. Starring Howard Rollins, Jr., Irene Cara, Laurence Fishburne, and Paul Winfield. 1983. Television film based on the book by Myrlie B. Evers. (This film may be purchased online).
  • A Tribute to Medgar Evers. Broadcast by WBLT-TV, Jackson, Mississippi, on 28 June 1992. Includes interviews with Evers’ friends and colleagues and an overview of his work for the NAACP in Mississippi.
  • Southern Justice: The Murder of Medgar Evers. New York: Ambrose Video, 1994. Originally broadcast on HBO as a segment of “The America Undercover” series. Executive producers: Paul Hamann, Sheila Nevins; photographer: Bob Perrin; film editor: Malcolm Daniel; original music: Mark T. White. Narrated by Julian Bond. The assassination of Medgar Evers is placed within the context of race relations in Mississippi at mid-century by means of archival photography, interviews with Myrlie Evers and convicted murderer Byron de la Beckwith, and reenactments of murder trial scenes.
  • Ghosts of Mississippi. Dir. Rob Reiner. Columbia Pictures/Castle-Rock Entertainment, 1996. Starring Alec Baldwin, Whoopi Goldberg, James Woods, and Craig T. Nelson. Based on the book by Maryanne Vollyers.

Bibliography:

Biographical Sources:

  • Brown, Jennie. Medgar Evers. Los Angeles: Melrose Square Pub. Co., 1994.
  • Evers, Myrlie B., and William Peters. For Us, the Living. 1st ed. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1967; Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1996.
  • Jackson, James E. At the funeral of Medgar Evers in Jackson, Mississippi; A Tribute in Tears and a Thrust for Freedom. New York: Publisher’s New Press, 1963.
  • Massengill, Reed. Portrait of a Racist: The Man Who Killed Medgar Evers? New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994.
  • Nossiter, Adam. Of Long Memory: Mississippi and the Murder of Medgar Evers. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1994; Da Capo Press, 2002.
  • Salter, John R. Jackson, Mississippi: An American Chronicle of Struggle and Schism. Foreword by R. Edwin King, Jr. Hicksville, N.Y.: Exposition Press, 1979.
  • Scott, R. W. Glory in Conflict: A Saga of Byron De La Beckwith. Camden, Arkansas: Camark Press, 1991.
  • Remembering Medgar Evers—For a New Generation: A Commemoration. Developed by the Civil Rights Research and Documentation Project, Afro-American Studies Program, The University of Mississippi. Oxford, MS: distributed by Heritage Publications in cooperation with the Mississippi Network for Black History and Heritage, 1988.
  • Vollers, Maryanne. Ghosts of Mississippi: The Murder of Medgar Evers, The Trials of Byron de la Beckwith, and the Haunting of the New South. Boston: Little, Brown, 1995.

Internet Resources

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