Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Medgar Wiley Evers was a black civil rights activist murdered in 1963 in Jackson, Mississippi. A World War II veteran and a graduate of Alcorn College, Evers began working in 1952 for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). From his home in Jackson, Evers travelled Mississippi trying to encourage voter registration and working to enforce federally-mandated integration laws. On 12 June 1963, hours after President John F. Kennedy gave a televised speech condemning segregation, Evers was shot in the back by a high-powered rifle while returning home. He crawled to the house and collapsed in front of his wife and three children; he died an hour later. The rifle found at the scene belonged to Byron De La Beckwith, a member of the all-white Citizens' Council, a statewide group opposed to racial integration. Beckwith was tried twice, but both trials ended with a hung jury and he was released. Nearly thirty years later, thanks to the persistence of Evers's widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams, the case was reopened and Beckwith was tried and convicted in 1994 (the conviction was upheld by the state supreme court in 1997). Evers-Williams published For Us, The Living in 1967, and Beckwith's trial was the basis for the 1996 film Ghosts of Mississippi (starring Whoopi Goldberg).
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