Medgar Evers Assassination: 50th Anniversary

Shortly after midnight on June 12, 1963, Medgar Evers was assassinated outside his Jackson, Mississippi, home – hours after Alabama Governor George Wallace declared “segregation forever” and President John F. Kennedy responded by declaring civil rights a “moral issue” to a national audience.  Evers deserves to be remembered for more than just his tragic and premature death, which was certainly a giant emotional setback to – as well as a catalyst for – the Civil Rights Movement itself.

Evers, a World War II veteran, insurance salesman, and the NAACP’s first field secretary in Mississippi, endured multiple threats to his life in the weeks leading up to his assassination.  An organizer of sit-in demonstrations to protest Jackson’s segregated lunch counters and a outspoken advocate for a full investigation in the murder of Emmett Till, his bravery in hyper-segregated Mississippi was staggering.  Several documents here reflect Evers’ activism, but his bold campaign to desegregate the University of Mississippi in the months before the Brown vs. Board of Education is one that stands out.

Evers would ultimately play a large role in the desegregation of the University of Mississippi in 1962, when James Meredith became its first African American student.

Perhaps our richest and most intimate documentation of Evers, however, is of his funeral itself, located within the records of the Collins Funeral Home, which hosted his Mississippi memorial service before his burial days later at Arlington National Cemetery. The following images are from the Collins Funeral Home Records.

Mourners wait to view the body of Medgar Evers.

Mourners wait to view the body of Medgar Evers.

Over 6,000 marchers disband outside the Collins Funeral Home.

Over 6,000 marchers disband outside the Collins Funeral Home.

Children Darrel and Denise Evers seated with their mother, Myrlie, and uncle, Charles.  A weary Martin Luther King Jr. stands two rows back as mourners sing "We Shall Overcome," which is reflected in the funeral program.

Children Darrel and Denise Evers seated with their mother, Myrlie, and uncle, Charles. A weary Martin Luther King Jr. stands two rows back as mourners sing “We Shall Overcome,” which is reflected in the funeral program.

Jackson residents line Farish Street as the funeral procession drives toward the funeral home.

Jackson residents line Farish Street as the funeral procession drives toward the funeral home.

Posted by Andrew Salinas

(Images from the Daniel Ellis Byrd Papers and Collins Funeral Home Records. May not be reproduced without permission.)

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