Civil rights leader Medgar Evers is finally getting some of the recognition that he deserves. The home of the assassinated leader has been declared a national monument.
“It will always be the home that Medgar Evers and I lived, loved and reared our children in until he was shot in the back of the driveway of our home because he fought for his beliefs of justice and equality for all citizens of the United States of America,” Evers’ wife, Myrlie, who turns 86 Sunday, said in an interview.
In February, Congress passed a bipartisan public lands bill that included the addition of four national monuments, one of which is Evers’ home. This week, the legislation was signed into law by Donald Trump.
But this comes after decades of Rep. Bennie Thompson advocating for the house to be declared a national monument. Thompson is the only Democrat and African-American in the state’s delegation.
Mississippi Republican Gov. Phil Bryant gave Trump and Republican senators all the credit in a tweet. Bryant extended accolades to Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who was under fire last year for her comment about attending “a public hanging” — a method of domestic terrorism that killed hundreds of Black people in Mississippi.
Rep. Karen Bass, (D-Calif.) chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus called out Bryant for not acknowledging Thompson.
“I don’t know much about the governor of Mississippi, but he is clearly despicable,” Bass told reporters on Friday. “There is no way in the world that he should not have acknowledged the decades of work that Congressman Bennie Thompson has put in. So for him to specifically ignore him is really just an example of his pettiness.”
Medgar Evers, NAACP’s first field secretary for the state of Mississippi stands nearby a sign of the state Mississippi in this 1958 file photo. (AP Photo/Francis H. Mitchell – Ebony Collection, File)
Evers was a college-educated, World War II sergeant, father, husband and civil rights leader whose life was constantly threatened in his home state of Mississippi. He got his initial start in the civil rights movement as the president of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL). Evers was instrumental in the RCNL’s boycott of gasoline stations that denied Blacks the use of the stations’ restrooms. Evers and his brother Charles attended the RCNL’s annual conferences in Mound Bayou, MS., between 1952 and 1954, which drew crowds of 10,000 or more.
When the U.S. Supreme Court declared segregated schools as unconstitutional, his service in the movement continued as he applied to the state-supported University of Mississippi Law School in 1954, but his application was rejected because of his race. Evers had submitted his application as part of a test case by the NAACP.
From there, he was named as the NAACP’s first field secretary for Mississippi on November 24, 1954. In this position, Medgar Evers helped organize boycotts and set up new local chapters of the NAACP.
As the civil rights leader became more instrumental in pursuing justice and equality for Blacks in Mississippi, he became a target of white supremacists. He played an integral part in Emmett Till’s murder investigation. Evers and his family lived with constant threats, which violently progressed.
There were two separate attempts on his life before he was eventually murdered. On May 28, 1963, a Molotov cocktail was thrown into the carport of his home and on June 7, 1963, Evers was nearly run down by a car after he came out of the NAACP office in Jackson.
Five days later, he was shot through the heart as he returned home from a meeting with NAACP lawyers. He was taken to a hospital where he was initially denied treatment because he was Black. Upon learning who he was, he was finally admitted where he died an hour later.
Medgar Evers was interred at Arlington National Cemetery. It took over 30 years for his killer to be brought to justice. Byron De La Beckwith was finally convicted of his murder in February 1994 and was sentenced to life in prison where he died in 2001.
Currently, the Evers’ house is managed by Tougaloo College. It was donated to the college by the Evers family in 1993. It will be taken over by the federal government where it can be preserved.
The three-bedroom home was vacant for years after the family moved out during the 1960s. It was restored in the mid-1990s. It is now filled with mid-century furniture, and one of the bedrooms has a display about the family’s history. A bullet hole is still visible in wall in the kitchen.
In 2016, The National Park Service named the home a national historic landmark.
The Emmett Till Memorial Commission issued a statement about the site become a national monument earlier this week.
“The Emmett Till Memorial Commission and Wheeler Parker, Emmett Till’s cousin, thank the Mississippi Congressional delegation and the White House for passing and signing legislation designating the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home as a National Monument.”
“We are happy for Myrlie Evers Williams and the Evers family that the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home has received this long overdue recognition as a National Monument today,” said Wheeler Parker, a relative who was present for the events leading up to Emmett Till’s kidnapping and murder.
“Our two families have been forever linked by tragedy, but also by shared struggle and hope in the ongoing cause of racial justice. We know that our nation’s official recognition of that cause will be incomplete without making our beloved Emmett and his mother, Mamie, part of this story, as well. We ask that our government take action on the Till historic sites so that everyone may learn about Emmett and the legacy he has left for all of us.”
“Till’s murder prompted Medgar Evers to investigate and assist in the prosecution of the white vigilantes responsible for the crime,” said Patrick Weems, Director of the Emmett Till Memorial Commission.
“As we celebrate today’s designation of the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home, we encourage Mississippi’s Congressional Delegation and the President to continue the leadership they have demonstrated here by designating the historic sites associated with Emmett Till’s legacy for federal protection. These sites are nationally significant resources and are essential to scholarly study and popular understanding of the Civil Rights Movement.”
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