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Published:June 12th, 2013 08:26 EST
On the 50th Anniversary of Medgar Evers` Death, What`s Its Meaning in American History?

On the 50th Anniversary of Medgar Evers` Death, What`s Its Meaning in American History?

By John G. Kays

It`s been fifty years as of today (June 12, 2013) since Medgar Evers was slain when standing on his own home driveway in Jackson, Mississippi. President Kennedy had just delivered his famous civil rights speech that night (June 11, 1963), and Medgar`s wife (Myrlie) and children had just watched the speech. Medgar arrived home late (which by then, was early on the morning of June 12, 1963) from a meeting, 12:30 AM, when the loud rifle shot was heard that took Medgar Evers` life. 

Last night I saw coverage on the news of this important civil rights leaders` assassination, the occasion being, it`s been 50 years since this event occurred, that shook up our country for its sheer hatred and racism towards this man, who had the courage to stand up to the white majority, who`d had a perpetual grip on power in Jackson, Mississippi. I marveled at the black and white footage, which had a way of tossing me back into the past, remembering what the Deep South was really like then.

I realized one profound, yet troubling legacy to this event of Medgar Evers getting shot by a white racist (I need not mention his name, because he ought to be forgotten), is that it sets off a whole series of assassinations of substantial political and charismatic  leaders who were champions of civil rights and equality for all Americans; a short checklist will have to include John F. Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Jack`s brother, Robert Kennedy. 

It`s hard to say why exactly this happened in just the way it did; is there a lesson of history that can explain why these tragic high-profile killings occurred in rapid succession? There probably is, but it`s hard to put words to it that can explain the subtle undercurrents, the slowness at which meaningful change comes to a society. 

One would have to return to the American Civil War to understand why history had to repeat itself in the 1960s; Abraham Lincoln`s assassination might be included with my earlier referenced roster, though it occurred 100 years prior.

Yea, there`s continuity to this timeline of national tragedy and sluggish change; Medgar Evers was a brave man who chose to speed up this change, since he probably realized it would never come unless he took an pro-active approach. 

One item of interest to me as I was studying over Evers` biography, is that during that time he researched many of the cases of injustice against blacks, such as the 1955 killing of 14-year-old Emmett Till. I learned about this case from Bob Dylan`s song and I`ve seen a video on it also.

Wikipedia`s entry on Emmett Till is a good one; I read it over carefully this morning, still tremendously shocked that this could have happened, even in the mid 1950s. Furthermore, I kept in mind, it was Medgar Evers who helped to bring this pivotal case of racial murder out in the open, so Americans wouldn`t forget about such a shameful chapter in our history. It comes to me, Evers` death is an eerie mirror of Emmett Till.

The best thing for us to do today, is to study Medgar Evers` life and to think about his place in our history. I`m struggling with that at this time and my clumsy words and thoughts have not yet come to terms with what all this means. Seeing a rebel flag behind a photo of his assassin is what made me think that The Civil War was still being fought back in those days, fifty years ago.

And I just remembered (it came to me in a flash) the rebel flag waving in the crowd when Kennedy arrived at Love Field. Yea, it looks like we`ll have to go back over carefully 150 years of American History. Remembering Medgar Evers is a convenient starting point; let us begin!