Writer, Scholar, Educator, Civil Rights Activist
Birthplace: Decatur, MS
Education: Alcorn A&M College
Medgar Evers spent most of his life working for the civil-rights movement. He left high school to serve in the army during Wold War II. After graduating from Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College in 1950, Evers sold insurance in rural Mississippi. He was horrified by the poverty he found among black families in his state and joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Soon after, he became the first NAACP Field Secretary and organized chapters throughout his home state.
Evers fought for voting rights and school integration, and he organized the first economic boycott of businesses that practiced racial discrimination. He spoke frankly about the racist brutality he witnessed and, despite death threats, he devoted his life's work to eliminating injustices in the United States.
On June 13, 1963, Evers was shot and killed in front of his home in Jackson, MS. The owner of the gun, Byron de la Beckwith, was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. Twenty thousand people attended his burial in Arlington Cemetery. After two hung-jury mistrials, Beckwith was tried and released. Thirty years after his death, new evidence was found and a jury convicted 73-year-old Beckwith of murder.
Hours after his death, his wife Myrlie addressed a crowd and said, "Nothing can bring Medgar back, but the cause can live on." In 1963, the NAACP posthumously awarded Evers the prestigious Spingarn Medal, which is awarded by the NAACP for service to the African-American community. His family continued to work for civil rights: His wife became the Chairman of the National Board of Directors of the NAACP; his brother, Charles, served as mayor of Fayette, MS, from 1969 to 1981.
Although he died at the age of 37, mottoes, songs, and movies were made about his life and death. Evers' legacy also includes Medgar Evers College of the City University of New York.
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