Cover image for Medgar Evers : Mississippi martyr
Medgar Evers : Mississippi martyr
Williams, Michael Vinson, 1971-
Publication Information:
Fayetteville : University of Arkansas Press, 2011.
Physical Description:
xi, 434 p. : ill., map ; 24 cm.


Call Number
Material Type
Corning - Southeast Steuben County Library 1 B EVERS Adult NonFiction Book
Elmira - Steele Memorial Library 1 BE935 Adult NonFiction Book

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Civil rights activist Medgar Wiley Evers was well aware of the dangers he would face when he challenged the status quo in Mississippi in the 1950s and '60s, a place and time known for the brutal murders of Emmett Till, Reverend George Lee, Lamar Smith, and others. Nonetheless, Evers consistently investigated the rapes, murders, beatings, and lynching's of black Mississippians and reported the horrid incidents to a national audience, all the while organizing economic boycotts, sit-ins, and street protests in Jackson as the NAACP's first full-time Mississippi field secretary. He organized and participated in voting drives and nonviolent direct-action protests, joined lawsuits to overturn state-supported school segregation, and devoted himself to a career that cost him his life. This biography of a lesser-known but seminal civil rights leader draws on personal interviews from Myrlie Evers-Williams (Evers's widow), his two remaining siblings, friends, grade-school-to-college schoolmates, and fellow activists to elucidate Evers as an individual, leader, husband, brother, and father. Extensive archival work in the Evers Papers, the NAACP Papers, oral history collections, FBI files, Citizen Council collections, and the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission Papers, to list a few, provides a detailed account of Evers's NAACP work and a clearer understanding of the racist environment that ultimately led to his murder. Selfless dedication marked the life of Medgar Evers, and while this remains his story, it is also a testament to the important role that grassroots activism played in exacting social change during some of America's most turbulent and violent times.

Author Notes

Michael Vinson Williams is assistant professor of history and African American studies at Mississippi State University.

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

When Medgar Evers was assassinated in 1963, he had been engaged for much of his life with resisting racial injustice in Mississippi, having grown up in a family of resisters. He preceded James Meredith in efforts to integrate Ole Miss when he applied to law school before settling into a career as the first full-time field secretary for the NAACP in his home state, strategizing on potential cases to challenge discrimination, leading voting-rights drives, and helping to investigate rapes, murders, and lynchings. As whites mounted violent resistance and more aggressive groups, including SCLC, moved into Mississippi, Evers chafed under the restrictions of the NAACP, at one point even considering leaving the group and forming his own organization. Reacting to the constant threats of violence, despite the NAACP policy of nonviolence, Evers armed in preparation for a race war if it came to that. Historian Williams draws on previously unavailable archival materials and interviews with Evers' widow, family, and colleagues to offer a detailed portrait of a complex man, determined to stay in Mississippi and fight racial injustice, whatever the personal cost.--Bush, Vanessa Copyright 2010 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Williams, a professor of history and African American Studies at Mississippi State University, offers a scrupulously researched biography of the civil rights pioneer Medgar Evers (1925-1963), who heroically reported on the lynchings, rapes, and murders of black Mississippians and organized civil disobedience in the streets of Jackson. His early life was marked by racial violence so severe, says Williams, that for Evers, "the question always remained, how far could you push before whites killed you?" and it is this that fueled his activism. From selling the Chicago Defender, the preeminent black newspaper of the prewar era, to his accession to Mississippi field secretary for the NAACP, Evers never gave up the struggle to "form a new Mississippi that embraced all its citizens equally." The story of this admirable and principled man, whose nine years in a leadership post at the front lines of the civil rights struggle in "what could be historically termed the most racially oppressive state in America" ended at the age of 37 when he was shot dead by a white supremacist. Even if the book occasionally sacrifices smooth narrative for scholarly rigor and documentation, it's an important and readable study of this seminal leader and the history of the civil rights movement. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Review

Goes heartbreakingly to the heart of the movement, commemorating the oppression-hedged life of Evers, Mississippi's first full-time field secretary for the NAACP, and the consequences of his 1963 murder. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Medgar Evers worked as field secretary for the NAACP in Mississippi for nine years. That period encompasses the tumultuous first decade of the civil rights movement, 1954-63. Williams's biography of Evers has two goals: to comprehend the reasons why Evers became politically active, especially in Mississippi, where state-sanctioned violence against African Americans was common, and to measure the success of his activism. Motivated by his religious faith and inspired by the struggle of Africans against European colonial rule, Evers devoted his adult life to achieving political rights for black Mississippians as well as changing the hearts and minds of white Mississippians. In the process of this struggle for human rights, Evers became an excellent community organizer and public speaker. Williams (Mississippi State Univ.) concludes that Evers's story proves that one person can be the catalyst for political and social change. The author also provides a history of the three trials of Evers's murderer, Byron De La Beckwith, and the changing political environment of the state during each trial. A valuable bibliographic essay concludes this excellent biography. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All academic levels/libraries. D. O. Cullen Collin College

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