Evers Home to Become National Monument

The Evers family on their wedding day.

The Evers family on their wedding day.

By Free Radical

The Jackson, Mississippi home of Medgar and Myrlie Evers became a federally recognized national monument this past Tuesday. The site served as both a home and a headquarters for this married couple of revered freedom fighters.

Medgar Evers was a central figure in the heroic civil rights struggle in Mississippi and became one of the leading figures in the national movement to end decades of Jim Crow racism. As early as 1954, Medgar attempted to desegregate the University of Mississippi. Though he was unsuccessful, he helped James Meredith, who became the first Black student to attend the college eight years later.

Medgar gained greater acclaim as the field secretary for the entire state of Mississippi. With this position, he maintained a demanding schedule which included the investigation of murders of African-Americans, developing new NAACP chapters, and boycotts of white merchants who practiced segregation. His work also attracted the attention of White supremacists who enacted a virulent campaign to threaten him. These threats became real when he was assassinated by avowed racist Byron  De La Beckwith in his driveway while returning home in 1963. Not until nearly three decades later would De La Beckwith be convicted of Evers’s murder in 1994.

Myrlie Evers had long spearheaded the struggle seeking justice for her husband’s murder. Yet she was also a celebrated freedom fighter in her own right. She was selected to head the NAACP in 1995.

The Evers home is currently managed by Jackson based HBCU Tougaloo College. The family donated the home to the school so that it could organize tours and handle its upkeep in 1993. The home was designated a national landmark in 2016. With its new status as a national monument, the home can be made accessible to even more visitors.

Minnie White Watson, who has curated the home since 1997, and was once mentored by the Evers family, believes that the federal government “can afford to do things that possibly we could never do.” The home is in need of a parking lot and bathrooms according to her.

While the home’s new national monument status is a a cause for celebration, it has also sparked controversy. Through Twitter, the Republican Mississippi Governor, Phil Bryant, thanked President Donald Trump, and the the state’s two GOP Senators Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith for making the Evers home a national monument. Hyde-Smith gained infamy in recent months when during her Senate campaign against her African-American opponent, Mike Espy, she remarked that she would have no problem attending a public hanging. Mississippi was notorious for lynchings of Black men, very similar to the slaying of Medgar Evers.

Senators Hyde-Smith, Wicker, and Governor Bryantogave their support to making the Evers home a national monument only recently. However, U.S. Representative Bennie Thompson, who also hails from Mississippi, had been advocating that the Evers home become a national monument for nearly two decades. Bryant failed to acknowledge Thompson’s pioneering work in any public address.

This omission greatly upset Karen Bass, who chairs the Black Congressional Caucus. In speaking with reporters about Governor Bryant’s remarks, she noted, “There is no way in the world that he should not have acknowledged the decades of work that Congressman Bennie Thompson has put in. So for him to specifically ignore him is really just an example of his pettiness.”

These sentiments were shared by Myrlie Evers. In a radio interview, she fumed, “And how dare anyone on my husband’s life and his death take claim for something that they were just the opposite of. I’m incensed, Joe. My daughter told me, ‘Mom, be calm, be cool.’ I will be darned if I can be calm and cool. … I can’t be calm, I can’t be still, I can’t be quiet.”

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