The Legacy of Medgar Evers
Forty years ago this week, Mississippi civil rights leader Medgar Evers was gunned down outside his home in Jackson. It took 31 years for Evers’ killer to be brought to justice — but in that time, the state has changed a great deal. Once the leader in the number of lynchings in America, today Mississippi leads in the number of elected black officials.
It’s part of Medgar Evers’ legacy — paid for in blood — and stamped on the lives of Mississippians, from the state capital in Jackson to the cornfields of Newton County where Medgar Evers grew up.
A few miles away in the town of Decatur — just a few streets over from the courthouse where Medgar Evers was turned away from trying to register to vote in 1946 — Louise Johnson walks down the street where Evers’ family once lived. It’s now called Medgar Evers Drive.
“(Evers) told us one day, he said we’re gonna vote,” Johnson says. “There’s gonna come a day where they’re gonna ask for our vote. Well, we couldn’t see it in that day and time — but it happened, and it’s happening.”
Evers’ assassination was a flash point for activism in the black community. During his funeral procession in Jackson, thousands marched in the streets shouting, “After Medgar, No More Fear.”
In 1969, Evers’ brother Charles was the first black man elected mayor in Mississippi. “Medgar and I said many years ago, if we ever end the violent racism in this state, it’ll be the greatest state in the world to live,” he tells Peeples. “And now, Medgar, I know you’re gone, but I’m telling you, son, it’s come to pass.”
Melanie Peeples – 40 Years After Civil Rights Leader’s Death, a Changed Mississippi