Civil rights leader Medgar Evers is finally getting some of the recognition that he deserves. The home of the assassinated leader has been declared a national monument.
“It will always be the home that Medgar Evers and I lived, loved and reared our children in until he was shot in the back of the driveway of our home because he fought for his beliefs of justice and equality for all citizens of the United States of America,” Evers’ wife, Myrlie, 86, said in an interview.
In February, Congress passed a bipartisan public lands bill that included the addition of four national monuments, one of which is Evers’ home. This week, the legislation was signed into law by Donald Trump.
But this comes after decades of Rep. Bennie Thompson advocating for the house to be declared a national monument. Thompson is the only Democrat and African-American in the state’s delegation.
Mississippi Republican Gov. Phil Bryant gave Trump and Republican senators all the credit in a tweet. Bryant extended accolades to Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, who was under fire last year for her comment about attending “a public hanging” — a method of domestic terrorism that killed hundreds of Black people in Mississippi.
Rep. Karen Bass, (D-Calif.) chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus called out Bryant for not acknowledging Thompson.
“I don’t know much about the governor of Mississippi, but he is clearly despicable,” Bass told reporters on Friday. “There is no way in the world that he should not have acknowledged the decades of work that Congressman Bennie Thompson has put in. So for him to specifically ignore him is really just an example of his pettiness.”
Evers was a college-educated, World War II sergeant, father, husband and civil rights leader whose life was constantly threatened in his home state of Mississippi. He got his initial start in the civil rights movement as the president of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL). Evers was instrumental in the RCNL’s boycott of gasoline stations that denied Blacks the use of the stations’ restrooms. Evers and his brother Charles attended the RCNL’s annual conferences in Mound Bayou, MS., between 1952 and 1954, which drew crowds of 10,000 or more.
When the U.S. Supreme Court declared segregated schools as unconstitutional, his service in the movement continued as he applied to the state-supported University of Mississippi Law School in 1954, but his application was rejected because of his race. Evers had submitted his application as part of a test case by the NAACP.
From there, he was named as the NAACP’s first field secretary for Mississippi on November 24, 1954. In this position, Medgar Evers helped organize boycotts and set up new local chapters of the NAACP.
As the civil rights leader became more instrumental in pursuing justice and equality for Blacks in Mississippi, he became a target of white supremacists. He played an integral part in Emmett Till’s murder investigation. Evers and his family lived with constant threats, which violently progressed.
There were two separate attempts on his life before he was eventually murdered. On May 28, 1963, a Molotov cocktail was thrown into the carport of his home and on June 7, 1963, Evers was nearly run down by a car after he came out of the NAACP office in Jackson.
Five days later, he was shot through the heart as he returned home from a meeting with NAACP lawyers. He was taken to a hospital where he was initially denied treatment because he was Black. Upon learning who he was, he was finally admitted where he died an hour later.
Medgar Evers was interred at Arlington National Cemetery. It took over 30 years for his killer to be brought to justice. Byron De La Beckwith was finally convicted of his murder in February 1994 and was sentenced to life in prison where he died in 2001.
Currently, the Evers’ house is managed by Tougaloo College. It was donated to the college by the Evers family in 1993. It will be taken over by the federal government where it can be preserved.
The three-bedroom home was vacant for years after the family moved out during the 1960s. It was restored in the mid-1990s. It is now filled with mid-century furniture, and one of the bedrooms has a display about the family’s history. A bullet hole is still visible in wall in the kitchen.
In 2016, The National Park Service named the home a national historic landmark.