Introducing Students to Medgar Evers’ Life and Legacy
Medgar Wiley Evers was one of Mississippi’s most impassioned activists, orators, and visionaries for equality and against brutality. However many students learn little about his life and legacy in textbooks. Therefore, Teaching for Change prepared an interactive lesson to introduce students to his work and inspire them to learn more. The lesson is also designed as a pre-reading activity, providing an overview for students of the people, places, and issues in Evers’ life.
Between 1952 and 1963, Medgar Wiley Evers was one of Mississippi’s most impassioned activists, orators, and visionaries for change. He fought for equality and fought against brutality.
Born July 2, 1925, in Decatur, Mississippi, Evers was one of four children born to James and Jesse Evers. Evers spent the most time with older brother Charles, whom he idolized because Charles protected him, taught him to fish, swim, hunt, box, wrestle, and to think about the world and their segregated schooling. In addition, Evers saw and witnessed acts of raw violence against Blacks; his parents and brother could not shield him from the realities of a society built on racial discrimination.
Evers was inducted into the United States Army in 1942. Though typical at the time, racial segregation in the military only served to anger Evers. By the end of the war, Evers was among a generation of Black veterans committed “to return [home] fighting” for change. The initial “fight” for Evers was to register to vote as an affirmation of citizenship. In the summer of 1946, along with his brother, Charles, and several other Black veterans, Evers registered to vote at the Decatur city hall. But on Election Day, the veterans were prevented by angry whites from casting their ballots.
The experience only deepened Evers’s conviction that the status quo in Mississippi had to change. By 1954, Evers began an 8-year career as the Mississippi state field secretary for the NAACP, including the creating of youth councils. His organizing and murder investigations doubled the number of NAACP members who boycotted and agitated for justice in Mississippi. Murdered in the driveway to his house in 1963, his murderer was not brought to justice until 1994. Thanks to Medgar Evers, the groundwork was laid for the Mississippi freedom and voting rights struggles of the 1960s and 1970s. Read more.