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. This is the final post of the series.
Travel was an important part of Medgar Evers’ duties as NAACP field secretary.
Evers traveled around the state to increase membership at local branches and across the country to give speeches at meetings and conferences. In June 1956, Evers attended the NAACP’s forty-seventh annual meeting in San Francisco, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered an address championing direct action.1 In May1959, Evers spoke at the Los Angeles NAACP branch, and in September of that same year he traveled to Panama City, Florida to address the Florida State Conference of NAACP Branches.2 He made various political connections on these trips, forming a close relationship with U.S. Congressman Charles C. Diggs, Jr.
Diggs was a Michigan congressman and leader in African American voter registration. In 1956, Diggs and Evers wrote a series of letter to one another regarding intimidation and other illegal tactics that prevented voter registration for black Mississippians. Evers even introduced Diggs at a celebration for the third anniversary of the Brown ruling held at the Masonic Temple in Jackson.3
Evers also connected with those in arts and entertainment. He met award-winning author James Baldwin of Harlem when Baldwin traveled to Jackson in 1962 in support of James Meredith, who had just enrolled at the University of Mississippi. “He had the calm of someone who knows they’re going to die before their time—like Martin Luther King,” Baldwin said of Evers.4 Baldwin accompanied Evers on a trip investigating a murder in rural Mississippi and the two men developed a close friendship. By then Baldwin was already an outspoken civil rights activist. His play Blues for Mister Charlie, which he began writing before Evers’ death in 1963, was based on the murder of Emmett Till. Baldwin said that when Evers died he “resolved that nothing under heaven would prevent me from getting this play done.”5 Baldwin dedicated Blues to Evers’ family and memory.
1 Michael V. Williams, Medgar Evers: Mississippi Martyr (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2011), 132.
2 Myrlie Evers-Williams and Manning Marable, eds., The Autobiography of Medgar Evers: A Hero’s Life and Legacy revealed Through His Writings, Letters, and Speeches (New York: Basic Civitas Books, 2005), 140, 158.
3 Evers-Williams, The Autobiography of Medgar Evers, 72.
4 W.J. Weatherby, James Baldwin: Artist on Fire (New York: Donald I. Fine, Inc., 1989), 3.
5 Weatherby, James Baldwin, 237.