Last week we were in Jackson and I had the good fortune of being able to see the brand-new exhibit of Jason Bouldin’s portraits of Medgar Evers and Myrlie Evers-Williams in the Icons Gallery at the Mississippi Museum of Art.
Myrlie was the first black woman to graduate from the Law School at Ole Miss, in 1970. She received the Humanitarian Award from Ole Miss earlier this year.
From the Clarion-Ledger:
Bouldin’s voice choked with emotion Monday as he described the tabernacle-style frame of Evers’ portrait; it denotes a dwelling place, housing a cherished image. Listeners grasped each other’s hands as he explained the personal meaning behind the choice. Evers was going home, not going forth, when he was shot. “It is intended to provide a home … for the image,” Bouldin said, hoping it would echo the destination he never reached that night.
Fifty years ago today, Byron de la Beckwith killed Medgar Evers in Mississippi. Ten years later he had a plan to kill the head of the New Orleans office of the Anti-Defamation League (and after being arrested bragged about Evers to a cop named O’Sullivan — oops, this O’Sullivan was Jewish). A few years ago, we found this in a Greenwood, Mississippi bookstore — apparently he distributed many copies of the work “None Dare Call It Conspiracy” with cover letters over the years. An unsettling artifact of regional history.
Jerry Mitchell went on NPR for an interview about Eudora Welty’s story, and called DLB the most racist person he’d ever met.
Delta Drive – the same street that Byron De La Beckwith came in on and left on to kill Medgar Evers – is now named Medgar Evers Boulevard. And so, those kinds of changes have taken place in Mississippi. In a sense, the very thing that Byron De La Beckwith killed a Medgar Evers for, actually in some ways helped to fuel the changes. Those kinds of changes; the street being now named after Medgar Evers, the post office being named after Medgar Evers, the airport now named after Medgar Evers, the building that was built by slaves is now inhabited by an African-American mayor.
So these kinds of things, changes have taken place. At the time that Medgar Evers was killed, very few African-Americans were registered to vote in Mississippi or were able to vote in Mississippi. Today, Mississippi has more black elected officials than any other state. So these are the kind of changes that have come in the wake of Medgar Evers’ assassination.
Here’s the Evers’ home, now a museum — we went by here last week, too. It’s owned by Tougaloo College and available for tours by appointment:
From the Hattiesburg American, at the rededication ceremony a couple of weeks ago:
“When I’m here, I have the spirit of Dad protecting us,” said Reena Evers-Everette, who was 8 years old when her father was gunned down in the carport just after midnight on June 12, 1963.
Evers was the first Mississippi field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and he had stayed out late on June 11 to attend a community meeting. His wife and their three young children were still awake when he pulled into the driveway.
Evers-Everette said she will never forget seeing her father’s blood as he lay dying.
“He could not get up as many times as my brothers and I said, ‘Daddy, Daddy, get up,'” she recalled.