The Desegregator

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MEDGAR EVERS

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Medgar Evers was one of the most profound activists of the Civil Rights movement. His involvement in the Regional Council of Negro Leadership led to his organization of several boycotts and protests throughout Mississippi. His work as an NAACP field secretary also helped put Mississippi at the forefront of the struggle. One of Evers biggest achievements in Mississippi was desegregating the University of Mississippi Law School, thereby broadening the precedent set by Brown v. Board of Education, so that future law students, such as Barack Obama, could have their choice of law schools in the years that would follow.

Medgar Evers was born on July 2, 1925 in Decatur, Mississippi. He served in the Army and fought in Europe in World War II. He was honorably discharged in 1945, when he returned to Mississippi. In 1948, Evers enrolled at Alcorn State. Evers would eventually work his way to becoming the president of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership. In that role, he organized many boycotts and self-help campaigns. As an NAACP field secretary, Evers promoted desegregation, including the eventual desegregation of the University of Mississippi. A year after that landmark victory, Evers was shot and killed on June 12, 1963.

When whites in his hometown used intimidation to prevent Evers from voting in a local election, Evers said, “I made up my mind then that it would not be like that again—at least not for me. I was committed, in a way, to change things.”

His notorious death was an assassination plot by Ku Klux Klan member Byron De La Beckwith. Beckwith’s trial would result in two deadlocked juries. It wasn’t until 30 years later when, in 1994 after three decades of life as a free man, Beckwith was again brought to trial based on new evidence and he was convicted of murder. He died in jail in 2001.

Evers’ persistence, resolve, and commitment to the Civil Rights movement in the face of bigotry, racism and threats on his life, are all examples of the same kind of resolve Barack Obama displayed en route to winning the Presidency.

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