Monday, August 29, 2016
Medgar Evers was a black man who was a hero. He stood up against white racism and he desired freedom and justice for all black people. He was a great father and an excellent husband to his wife Myrlie Evers. He not only wanted social justice and voting rights. He worked with organizations involved in the civil rights movement like the NAACP. He worked hard to promote voting rights and registration, economic opportunity, access to public facilities, and an end to Jim Crow apartheid completely. His wife Myrlie Evers is still an activist for justice. She once was the national chair of the NAACP. His brother Charles Evers was the first African American mayor elected in Mississippi in the post-Reconstruction era when he won in 1969 in Fayette. Medgar Evers was born in July 2, 1925 in Decatur, Mississippi. He was the third of the give children. His older brother was Charlie Evers. The Evers family owned a small farm. James Evers or his father worked at a sawmill. Medgar Evers walked 12 miles to attend segregated schools and he earned his high school diploma. Medgar Evers was a World War II veteran. He was in the United States Army from 1943 to 1945. He was sent to the European Theater and he fought in the Battle of Normandy in June of 1944. After the end of the war, Evers was honorably discharged as a sergeant. In 1948, Evers enrolled at Alcorn College (a historically black college, now Alcorn State University) majoring in business administration. He also competed on the debate, football, and track teams, sang in the choir, and was junior class president. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in 1952. On December 24, 1951, he married classmate Myrlie Beasley. Together they had three children: Darrell Kenyatta, Reena Denise, and James Van Dyke Evers. The couple moved to Mound Bayou, Mississippi. This was a town developed by African Americans, where Evers became a salesman for T.R.M. Howard’s Magnolia Mutual Life Insurance Company. Howard was also president of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL). Evers helped to organize the RCNL’s boycott of gasoline stations that denied black people the use of the stations’ restroom. Evers and his brother Charles also attended the RCNL's annual conferences in Mound Bayou between 1952 and 1954, which drew crowds of ten thousand or more. In 1954, Evers applied to the segregated University of Mississippi Law School, but his application was rejected because of his race. He submitted to the NAACP as a test case. During that year, the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that segregation of public school (which included state universities) was unconstitutional. In late 1954, Evers was named the NAACP's first field secretary for Mississippi.
In this position, he helped organize boycotts and set up new local chapters of the NAACP. He was involved with James Meredith's efforts to enroll in the University of Mississippi in the early 1960's. Evers also helped Dr. Gilbert Mason, Sr., organize the Biloxi wade-ins, protests against segregation of public beaches on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. His civil rights leadership and investigative work made him a target of evil white supremacists. The Council was founded in Mississippi, with numerous local chapters, to resist integration of schools and civil rights goals. In the weeks before Evers' death, the leader encountered new levels of hostility. His public investigations into the 1955 lynching of teenaged Emmett Till and his vocal support of Clyde Kennard had made him a prominent black leader. On May 28, 1963, a Molotov cocktail was thrown into the carport of his home. On June 7, 1963, Evers was nearly run down by a car after he emerged from the NAACP office in Jackson. In the early morning of June 12, 1963, just hours after President John F. Kennedy’s famous nationally televised Civil Rights Address, Evers pulled into his driveway after returning from a meeting with NAACP lawyers. After he left his car and carrying NAACP T-shirt read “Jim Crow Must Go,” he was shot in the back with a bullet fired from an Enfield 1917 rifle; the bullet ripped through his heart. He staggered 30 feet (9.1 meters) before collapsing. He was taken to the local hospital in Jackson, Mississippi where he was initially refused entry because of his race. His family explained who he was and he was admitted; he died in the hospital 50 minutes later. After Evers was assassinated, an estimated 5,000 people marched from the Masonic Temple on Lynch Street to the Collins Funeral Home on North Farish Street in Jackson, Mississippi. Allen Johnson, Reverend Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders led the procession. His passing was mourned nationally. Medgar Evers was buried on June 19, 1963 in Arlington National Cemetery where he received full military honors before a crowd of more than 3,000. On June 21, 1963, Byron De La Beckwith, a fertilizer salesman and member of the White Citizens' Council (and later of the Ku Klux Klan), was arrested for Evers' murder. District Attorney and future governor Bill Waller prosecuted De La Beckwith. All-white juries twice that year deadlocked on De La Beckwith's guilt and failed to reach a verdict. At the time, most blacks were disenfranchised by Mississippi's constitution and voter registration practices; this meant they were also excluded from juries, which were based on registered voters. In 1994, De La Beckwith was prosecuted by the state based on new evidence. Bobby DeLaughter was the prosecutor. During the trial, the body of Evers was exhumed from his grave for an autopsy. De La Beckwith was convicted of murder on February 5, 1994, after having lived without long term prison time for much of the three decades following the killing. (He had been imprisoned from 1977 to 1980 on separate charges: conspiring to murder A.I. Botnick). De La Beckwith appealed his conviction in the Evers' case, but died at age 80 in prison in January 2001. Medgar Evers have been remembered and memorized by Mississippi and national authors (they include Eudora Wetty, James Baldwin, Margaret Walker, and Anne Moody). In 1963, he was awarded the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP. In 1969, College was established in Brooklyn, New York, as part of the City University of New York.
Evers's widow, Myrlie Evers co-wrote the book For Us, the Living with William Peters in 1967. In 1983, a movie was made based on the book. Celebrating Evers's life and career, it starred Howard Rollins Jr. and Irene Cara as Medgar and Myrlie Evers, airing on PBS. The film won the Writers Guild of America award for Best Adapted Drama. On June 28, 1992, the city of Jackson, Mississippi, erected a statue in honor of Evers. All of Delta Drive (part of U.S. Highway 49) in Jackson was renamed in Evers' honor. In December 2004, the Jackson City Council changed the name of the city's airport to "Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport" (Jackson-Evers International Airport) in his honor. Mylie Evers continues to be a civil rights activist to this very day. In June 2013, a statue of Evers was erected at his alma mater, Alcorn State University, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of his death. Alumni and guests from around the world gathered to recognize his contributions to American society. Evers' widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams, spoke on his contributions to the advancement of civil rights: "Medgar was a man who never wanted adoration, who never wanted to be in the limelight. He was a man who saw a job that needed to be done and he answered the call and the fight for freedom, dignity and justice not just for his people but all people." RIP Brother Medgar Evers.
The end of the Black Panther Party started in 1972 and the BPP ended completely in 1982. Its ending was tragic, sad, and filled with changes in American society. By 1972, Huey P. Newton called for the end of chapters nationwide. He wanted all efforts to be focused in Oakland. Newton rejects insurrectionary violence and focused on creating survival programs in Oakland in order for revolutionary change to come in a step by step process. This begins an overt push on the part of the Black Panther Party to be involved in reformist politics. Many people disagreed with this action like the BLA who wanted more militancy in order for black people to have justice. By mid-1972, many BPP members and its supporters win a number of minor offices in the Oakland city elections. Elaine Brown increased her power in the Black Panther Party during the time. She runs for city council while Bobby Seale runs for mayor of Oakland in the Democratic Party. They both lose their respective elections. By 1974, many Black Panther Party people left the party. Bobby and John Seale are expelled by Huey P. Newton in 1974. David and June Hillard were expelled. Chicago BPP members left too. A teenager named Kathleen Smith was murdered. Debates continue on whether Huey P. Newton was involved in her murder or not. One thing is true. That is that murder is wrong and we send condolences to the family of Kathleen Smith. Kathleen Smith was 19 years old when she was murdered. Huey P. Newton fled to Cuba to escape criminal prosecution. Elaine Brown stays and runs the Black Panther Party in his absence. During this time, Elaine Brown did do many great things in helping the community of Oakland, California. In December 1974: accountant Betty van Patter is murdered, after threatening to disclose irregularities in the Party's finances. I send condolences to the family and friends of Betty van Patter. When Huey P. Newton, returns from Cuba, he goes into a personal downward spiral of drug addiction, violence, rumored mental health issues, and internal discord. Minister of Education Ray "Masai" Hewitt created the Buddha Samurai, the party's underground security cadre in Oakland. Newton expelled Hewitt from the party later in 1972, but the security cadre remained in operation under the leadership of Flores Forbes. One of the cadre's main functions was to extort and rob drug dealers and after-hours clubs. Newton was also indicted for pistol-whipping his tailor, Preston Callins. He shows his writing skills by having his Ph.D., being in interviews, and writing eloquently. Yet, his imperfections persisted and his imperfections have no justification. There is no justification for unjust assault or murder. The Party supported Lionel Wilson in his successful election as the first black mayor of Oakland, in exchange for Wilson's assistance in having criminal charges dropped against Party member Flores Forbes, leader of the Buddha Samurai cadre.
Elaine Brown focused the Party more in an electoral direction. She allowed more women leadership in the BPP too. Elaine Brown’s leadership in the Party came from August 1974 to June 1977. During that time, the Party had embraced many social democratic policies and developed. Elaine Brown supported Jerry Brown for governor of California, which he won. Black Congressman Ron Dellum and organized labor supported Elaine Brown. The first black mayor of Oakland was Lionel Wilson. Elaine Brown and the Black Panther Party used their resources to help him to be elected. In May of 1977. Newton’s drug addiction was bad and he embezzled funds form the school to pay for his drug addiction. The Black Panther Party was about 27 in 1980 and its Panther sponsored school ended in 1982. The Black Panther Party in general ended in 1982. FBI/government infiltration and attacks (John Potash has written books that goes into great detail in accurately showing how the FBI used division, murder, and infiltration to attack the Black Panthers and other revolutionary organizations), internal disputes, murder, and other crisis caused the BPP to end. Huey P. Newton would continue to lecture and give interviews on television. Huey P. Newton would be murdered in 1989. I send condolences to Newton’s family and friends. The lesson here is that there is nothing wrong with revolutionary fervor, but revolutionary action must always be bounded in the realm of morality, integrity, and humane treatment. There is no excuse for murder, rape, harassment, assault, embellishment, bigotry, sexism, racism, xenophobia, and any injustice period. I believe in social and economic justice. I also believe in morality too. I do respect the Black Panthers who did the right thing and promoted excellence and helped others. We can be revolutionaries and treat our neighbors as ourselves at the same time.