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 lynchings 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 path that eventually cost him his life. This biography of an important 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.
About the Author
Michael Vinson Williams is assistant professor of history and African American studies at Mississippi State University.
"An important and readable study of this seminal leader and the history of the civil rights movement." --Publishers Weekly
"Excellent . . . highly recommended." --Choice
"Tops what have been too few head-on examinations of the substance and significance of this martyr's sacrifice." --Library Journal
"A well-written and informative installment in a prolific civil rights scholarship. . . . an accessible volume for a wide range of historians." --Hayden McDaniel, H-Net
"In this well-grounded inquiry into Mississippi's heart of darkness, Williams offers an essential reading of the short life and tragic times of Medgar Evers, the modest, heroic freedom fighter who, perhaps more than any other, helped transform the nation's most fiercely racist state." --Neil McMillen