The life of Medgar Evers is synonymous with the civil rights struggle and his strong leadership in the movement. This series, written by Dorian Randall, will explore his life, work, and legacy using related collections at MDAH.

Medgar and Myrlie Evers smiling on a couch.

Medgar and Myrlie Evers smiling on a couch. Accession number: Z.2331.000.S (Medgar Wiley and Myrlie Beasley Papers)

 

Evers with his children, Darrell Kenyatta and Reena.

Evers with his children, Darrell Kenyatta and Reena. Accession number: Z.2231.4.008.S (Medgar Wiley and Myrlie Beasley Papers)

Medgar Evers was dedicated to improving the quality of life of impoverished and disenfranchised African Americans in Mississippi. His work as an insurance salesman with Magnolia Mutual in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, not only prepared him for his work as a field secretary for the NAACP, it gave him a heightened sense of commitment to family. In his book Medgar Evers: Mississippi Martyr, Dr. Michael V. Williams discusses the degradation Evers saw in the Delta and how it helped him develop a “personal awareness of his familial responsibilities and obligations.”1 This dedication was especially strong after the birth of his first child, Darrell Kenyatta, for whom he was an example of “loving roughness,” while being a source of tenderness for daughter Reena.2

Evers had always worked long hours, but his commitments gradually increased in 1962­–63 with James Meredith’s integration of Ole Miss and youth protests in Jackson, Mississippi. His family urged him to rest. In one instance their youngest son, James Van Dyke, broke into song to encourage Evers to take time off. Evers hugged him and said, “That’s Daddy’s boy…That’s all I needed to make me get right up and go out and do a good job today.” 3 Myrlie Evers admired her husband’s diligence and love for Mississippi, but knowing that he needed to relax, she encouraged him to go hunting and fishing:

“He loved his state with hope and only rarely with despair. It was his hope that sustained him. It never left him. Despair came infrequently, and a day of hunting or fishing dispelled it. The love remained.”4

2004.21.1ab

Hunting knife and scabbard. Accession number: 2004.21.1ab (Museum Division Collection)

This artifact, a hunting and fishing knife belonged to Medgar Evers and was found in his desk drawer in the NAACP office after his assassination. His initials, “MWE,” are carved into the leather scabbard. This knife is currently on display in the exhibit “This is Home”: Medgar Evers, Mississippi, and the Movement in the William F. Winter Archives and History Building.


1 Michael V. Williams, Medgar Evers: Mississippi Martyr (Fayetteville: The University of Arkansas Press, 2011), 61.

2 Myrlie Evers and William Peters For Us the Living (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1996), 117.

3 Evers, For Us the Living, 278.

4 Evers, For Us the Living, 3.