Trump signs National Resources Management Act, leading to creation of the landmark
By Frederick H. Lowe
Medgar Evers was carrying NAACP printed t-shirts that demanded “Jim Crow must go in Mississippi.” As he walked from his car parked in the driveway to his home’s front door late at night in Jackson, Mississippi, an assassin’s bullet struck him in the back, throwing him violently to the ground.
Evers’ family called an ambulance, but employees initially refused to touch him or drive him to the nearby hospital because he was black. They relented and drove him to the hospital where he died a short time later.
I remember the day. It was June 12, 1963. I was in the 10th grade and knew little or nothing about Evers and his work. My parents’ reactions to his murder told me that he was an important and courageous man. My mother wept at hearing the news. My dad clenched his fists and looked both sad and angry.
Evers, a World War 2 Army veteran, was the NAACP’s first field secretary in Mississippi. The designation made him vulnerable, a target. He was beaten by whites and had guns pulled on him while he carried out his duties. Mississippi was a state where white-owned businesses proudly displayed signs that said “No Niggers and No dogs allowed.”
He led a boycott of Mississippi service stations that took money from blacks buying gas but refused to let them use the restrooms.
Boycotters distributed bumper stickers with the slogan “Don’t buy gas where you can’t use the restroom.”
He also called for a murder investigation of Emmett Till, the 14- year-old boy who was abducted and beaten so badly that his own mother could not recognize him. His killers tied heavy weights to his body and threw it into the Tallahatchie River near Money, Mississippi, on August 28, 1955.
The river revealed the murder of the century because Till’s body floated to the surface, much to the chagrin of his killers’ who were later tried and acquitted anyway by a jury of white men who took their time reaching a verdict so they could finish drinking their Coca Colas.
Fifty-six years after Byron De La Beckwith, a fertilizer salesman and white supremacist, murdered Evers, Evers’ home has been designated a national historical landmark. Beckwith died in prison.
Last month, Congress overwhelmingly passed a massive lands bill — the Natural Resources Management Act —that added four national monuments, including Medgar Evers’ former home.
President Donald Trump signed the legislation into law earlier this week.
The three-bedroom home’s address, which is 2332 Margaret Walker Alexander Drive, is now owned by Tougaloo College.
For a guided tour, call 601-977-7706 or 601-977-7935. Or you can email libraryservices@Tougaloo.edu or send a fax to 601-977-7714
People who have toured the one-story aqua-blue house have said the home played an important part in the nation’s violent civil rights history.
The designation was bittersweet.
The Congressional Black Caucus charged that Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant has ignored decades of work by U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D., Mississippi) to persuade the federal government to designate Evers’ home a national monument.
U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, called Bryant’s action’s despicable as did Myrlie Evers, Medgar Evers’ widow.
For his part, Bryant, a white Republican, said the language being used against him was similar to the language that has kept this country divided.
Released in 1996, the dramatic courtroom film biography, “Ghosts of Mississippi,” told the story of the 1994 retrial of Beckwith, which resulted in a jury finally convicting him of Evers’ murder. In two previous trials, juries failed to reach verdicts.
Fittingly, Evers was given a warrior’s burial in Arlington National Cemetery.