The Ultimate Sacrifice

Posted by Pete on Jul 2nd 2020

Medgar Evers was born today in 1925. Thirty-eight years later, he gave his life for the cause of racial equality in the United States.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

“Our lives are not fully lived if we’re not willing to die for those we love, for what we believe.”

Dr King said these words upon hearing that his fellow struggler for black liberation, Malcolm X, had been killed in 1965.

A couple years before, King had attended the funeral of another black activist, murdered for cherishing equality.

On 12th June 1963, Medgar Evers was shot dead outside his home in Jackson.

A D-Day veteran, Evers had served his country fighting Nazi white supremacism in Europe only to be murdered by American white supremacism in Mississippi.

And this wasn’t even the first attempt on his life.

The reason Medgar Evers attracted so much hate from the white supremacists of the South was his uncompromising belief that African Americans deserved equal respect – that, in other words, black lives matter.

Born today in 1925, Evers went to a segregated school in interwar Mississippi before serving in WW2.

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After graduating Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College in 1952, he took up work as an insurance salesman in Mound Bayou.

He also dived headlong into local civil rights activism.

In 1954, Evers was named the NAACP’s field secretary for Mississippi.

It was a decisive year for the civil rights movement.

In May, the Supreme Court had declared the segregation of public schools unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education.

Black activists then went to work agitating for desegregation to actually be implemented and, in Mississippi, Medgar Evers was on the frontline.

Unconstitutional or not, powerful white racists were determined to uphold segregation in the South.

In Mississippi, a repugnant 'White Citizens’ 'Council’ was set up after Brown v. Board.

Malcom X was a fellow black activist who was killed because he was fighting for equality.

Evers, then, had a fight on his hands.

He personally applied to the hitherto white-only University of Mississippi law school to 'test' whether desegregation was actually being introduced.

It wasn’t – he was rejected on racial grounds.

Evers would go on to support James Meredith, another black WW2 vet, in his ultimately successful application to the University in 1962.

Evers also struggled to get schools in Leake County desegregated, as well as public beaches on the Gulf Coast, private buses in Jackson, and the Mississippi State Fair.

He managed voter registration drives among African Americans and demanded justice for 14-year-old Emmett Till after he was lynched by a white mob in 1955.

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Medgar Evers knew this activism would make many white people want him dead so he even trained his kids how to respond if their house was attacked.

Evers lived in a sick country, where black demands for equal worth were met with contempt. But he demanded it nonetheless.

The black radical thinker, James Baldwin, remembered Medgar Evers as part of a holy trinity with Martin Luther King and Malcolm X – all three martyrs for the cause.

Long and often sorrowful, the road to black liberation in the US is strewn with heroes’ bodies, some known, most unknown.

Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955. Her action led to Supreme Court lifting the law requiring segregation on public buses.

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From the Union soldiers who fell at Gettysburg to George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, racist violence has killed countless thousands in its effort to keep America unequal and unjust.

These fallen, like Medgar Evers, must always be remembered – and their struggle continued.

Black Lives Matter.

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