Category Archives: 4. Atentados

Medgar Evers

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.”

Medgar Evers

Melanie Peeples – 40 Years After Civil Rights Leader’s Death, a Changed Mississippi

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James Meredith

1962: Mississippi race riots over first black student

Two people have been killed and at least 75 injured in rioting at the University of Mississippi campus in Oxford. Hundreds of extra troops have been brought in to join Federal forces already stationed in the nearby town of Oxford as the violence spread to its streets. The protesters are angry at the admission of James Meredith, a black American, to the university. Rioting erupted last night as President Kennedy addressed the nation in a televised broadcast urging a peaceful settlement to the dispute over racial segregation.

US marshals, military police and National Guardsmen used teargas to take on rioters armed with rocks, lead pipes, petrol bombs and in some instances rifles and shotguns. More than 100 people were arrested during the night. One US marshal was shot in the neck and critically wounded. Cars and television trucks were smashed and burned and journalists and cameramen were beaten, as rioters turned on the media.

Mr Meredith remained under guard inside the campus in a university dormitory during the fighting. He was then escorted to his first class – a seminar on American colonial history – through a crowd of several hundred jeering students. Rioting has continued in the town of Oxford with further arrests made and more troops flown in.

Many students harassed Meredith during his two semesters on campus. Though the majority of students accepted Meredith’s presence, according to first person accounts chronicled in Nadine Cohodas’s book The Band Played Dixie, students living in Meredith’s dorm bounced basketballs on the floor just above his room through all hours of the night. When Meredith walked into the cafeteria for meals, the students eating would all turn their backs. If Meredith sat at a table with other students, all of whom were white, the students would immediately get up and go to another table.

He led a civil rights march, the March Against Fear from Memphis, Tennessee to Jackson, Mississippi in 1966 and was wounded by sniper Aubrey James Norvell on June 6. This photograph of Meredith after being shot won the Pulitzer Prize for Photography in 1967.

A novice photographer for AP, Jim Thornell was on the scene for the voter registration march and he took two rolls of pictures. Minutes passed before an ambulance reached Meredith, who lay in the road alone, shouting “Isn’t anyone going to help me?”  The photo (and the event itself) was a flash point in the American civil rights movement. It united and galvanized the scattered civil rights movement.

 

James Meredith Shot

BBC, 1962: Mississippi race riots over first black student

Herbert Lee

By mid 1961, the Civil Rights Movement was reaching Mississippi with the arrival of Freedom Rides. As these volunteers moved through the South, challenging segregated bus seating, restaurants, and restrooms in the cities, another murder occurred outside of the Delta in the small town of Liberty.

Farmer Herbert Lee, 52, was shot and killed by E.H. Hurst, a white member of the Mississippi Legislature, on September 25, 1961 in Liberty. Lee was a father of nine children. Hurst was never charged with the crime, and black witnesses were pressured by the sheriff and others to testify that Lee tried to hit Hurst with a tire tool. They testified as ordered and Hurst was acquitted in an Amite County trial held in a room full of armed white man, the same day as the killing. Hurst never spent a night in jail.

by Susan Orr-Klopfer

Herbert Lee

Excerpt from “Where Rebels Roost, Mississippi Civil Rights Revisited”

Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman

In Mississippi, in the 1960s, when segregation was king, racism the status quo, and bigotry the law, it was young people who rose up and challenged the system. In racially segregated and economically depressed Neshoba County, Mississippi, it was the local black youth and northern volunteers who challenged racism and led the fight for freedom and justice. Because of the sacrifices made by many people, most of the obvious signs of racism and bigotry have been eliminated. Because of the brutal beatings suffered by demonstrators at the hands of segregationists, public facilities have been desegregated.

To achieve the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, many marched, demonstrated, and suffered brutal beatings. And some died. For three who died, Michael Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andrew Goodman, we still continue the struggle for justice.

The Commission was composed of some of the most powerful figures in the state, including the governor, the state attorney general, the president of the state senate, and the speaker of the state house of representatives. Other members included state supreme court judges, senators, and members of the state house of representatives. The relationship between the Commission and these high ranking state officials provided additional legitimacy to the organization.

There was an unofficial relationship between the Commission and the Klan. Members of the Citizens’ Council were also Klansmen, and the more influential the Citizens’ Council member, the more influence he had with the Klan.

James Chaney was my brother. He and Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman were committed to the belief that this country and its constitutional privileges are guarantees that all of us-regardless of color, sex, or religion-have a right to participate in our great demo-cratic process and we all have a right to be treated fairly under the law. It is time that we dedicate ourselves and make a firm commitment to the success of the struggle and the preservation of our liberties by securing justice now so that future generations will not have to live in fear.

By Ben Chaney

Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman: The Struggle for Justice – Human Rights Magazine, Spring 2000