Medgar Evers

Medgar Evers
Medgar Evers.jpg
Medgar Wiley Evers

(1925-07-02)July 2, 1925
DiedJune 12, 1963(1963-06-12) (aged 37)
Cause of deathRacially motivated assassination
EducationAlcorn State University
OccupationCivil rights activist
Myrlie (m. 1951–1963)

(his death)
Parent(s)James Evers (father)
Jesse Wright (mother)[1]
Military career
Allegiance United States
Service/branchSeal of the United States Department of War.png United States Army
Years of service1943–1945
RankArmy-U.S.-OR-05.png Sergeant
RelationsCharles (brother)

Medgar Wiley Evers (July 2, 1925 – June 12, 1963) was an American civil rights activist in Mississippi, the state's field secretary for the NAACP, and a World War II veteran who had served in the United States Army. He worked to overturn segregation at the University of Mississippi, end the segregation of public facilities, and expand opportunities for African Americans, which included the enforcement of voting rights.

A college graduate, Evers became active in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s. Following the 1954 ruling of the United States Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated public schools were unconstitutional, Evers challenged the segregation of the state-supported public University of Mississippi, applying to law school there. He also worked for voting rights, economic opportunity, access to public facilities, and other changes in the segregated society. Evers was awarded the 1963 NAACP Spingarn Medal.

Evers was assassinated in 1963 by Byron De La Beckwith, a member of the White Citizens' Council. This group was formed in 1954 in Mississippi to resist the integration of schools and civil rights activism. As a veteran, Evers was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.[2] His murder and the resulting trials inspired civil rights protests; his life and these events inspired numerous works of art, music, and film. All-white juries failed to reach verdicts in the first two trials of Beckwith in the 1960s. He was convicted in 1994 in a new state trial based on new evidence.

Medgar's widow, Myrlie Evers, became a noted activist in her own right, serving as national chair of the NAACP. His brother Charles Evers was the first African American to be elected as mayor of a city in Mississippi in the post-Reconstruction era; he won the office in 1969 in Fayette.

Early life

Evers was born on July 2, 1925, in Decatur, Mississippi, the third of five children (including elder brother Charles Evers) of Jesse (Wright) and James Evers. The family included Jesse's two children from a previous marriage.[3][4] The Evers family owned a small farm and James also worked at a sawmill.[5] Evers and his siblings walked 12 miles to attend segregated schools; eventually Medgar earned his high school diploma.[6]

Evers served in the United States Army during World War II from 1943 to 1945. He was sent to the European Theater where he fought in the Battle of Normandy in June 1944. After the end of the war, Evers was honorably discharged as a sergeant.[7]

In 1948, Evers enrolled at Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College[8] (a historically black college, now Alcorn State University), majoring in business administration.[9] He also competed on the debate, football, and track teams, sang in the choir, and was junior class president.[10] He earned his Bachelor of Arts in 1952.[9]

On December 24, 1951, he married classmate Myrlie Beasley.[11] Together they had three children: Darrell Kenyatta, Reena Denise, and James Van Dyke Evers.[12]

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