Fifty-one years ago today, June 12, 1963, Medgar Wiley Evers was shot in the back by a coward with an Enfield 1917 rifle. You can look up his name. He shouldn’t even share the same page as Evers. The bullet pierced Evers’ heart. He was rushed to hospital, originally refused to be admitted because of his color and pronounced dead in less than an hour.
His life was remarkable – a WWII War Hero, he earned a BA from Alcorn State University. After the War, Evers and his brother, Charlie, worked to register black voters, but registration wasn’t enough. When the brothers attempted to vote in the 1948 election, several hundred white men blocked their access and they were unable to gain access to the polling place. So he became more involved. Evers’ was named the NAACP’s first field secretary for Mississippi. Evers worked with James Meredith as he attempted to enroll at the University of Mississippi and investigated Emmitt Till’s death.
“We lived with death as a constant companion 24 hours a day. Medgar knew what he was . But I knew at some point that he would be taken from me.” – Myrlie Evers, wife of Medgar Evers
Evers’ house was firebombed weeks before he was killed. He received numerous death threats, but he continued to fight against racism and segregation. He grew up witnessing the brutality visited upon blacks in Mississippi. According to the History Learning Site, “In later years he recollected how a family friend was lynched in the town for answering back to a white woman. Everyone in Decatur apparently knew who did the killing but no-one was ever charged and nothing was ever said in public about it. The dead man’s bloodied clothes were left in public presumably as a warning to other African Americans about the consequences of such behaviour.”
“Every Negro in town was supposed to get the message from those clothes and I can see those clothes now in my mind’s eye. But nothing was said in public. No sermons in church. No news. No protest. It was as if this man just dissolved except for his bloody clothes.” – Medgar Evers
His death brought national heartache. The murderer would not be found guilty until 31 years and three trials later. Evers was buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. Last year on the 50th anniversary of his death, a statue was erected in his honor at Alcorn State University and a Navy ship has been commissioned under his name.
Today, June 12, 1942, Anne Frank receives a diary for her 13th birthday. Her words and insight into life as a young Jewish girl in hiding during World War II has inspired the world. In July of 1942, Frank and her family were forced into hiding, an existence that would last two years and end at Bergen-Belsen for Anne and her sister, Auschwitz for the rest of her family. Frank died one month before the end of the War from typhus. Somehow knowing she was so close to surviving makes her story even more tragic, as if there is any possibility of being more tragic than losing everyone you love. Although, her father survived and I can’t imagine the feeling of loss and isolation he must have encountered at the end of War when no one returned home.
Anne Frank’s diary is remembered today and always for asserting that hope and optimism still reins in the human heart long after others have tried to destroy it.
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” – Anne Frank