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Black History Month USA: The Autobiography of Medgar Evers

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Format: Hardcover, paperback

Title: The Autobiography of Medgar Evers: A Hero’s Life and Legacy revealed Through His Writings, Letters, and Speeches, 2006, http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/autobiography-of-medgar-evers-myrlie-evers-williams/1100304201?ean=9780465021789

Edited by: Myrlie Evers-Williams and Manning Marable

Genre: Autobiography

Synopsis: Most Americans are aware of the Civil Rights leaders (of the 1960’s) which were charismatic and possessed booming voices at mass rallies. Powerful images of male figures such as Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Hosea Williams, Ralph Abernathy, Jesse Jackson, and Julian Bond emerge from our memories (and current documentaries). But, the covert heroes such as Baynard Rustin and Medgar Evers were the true architects of the movement. These men worked in the trenches rallying the consciousness of Black Americans to seize their rightful place in the full spectrum of American life. Medgar Evers paid the ultimate price in the cause of justice and civil rights. Yet, he remains a ‘dark child’ in terms of obtaining recognition for his efforts. Readers will find that Medgar Evers did not come to the Civil Rights movement in America naively or without prerequisites. He grew up in the Jim Crow era of Mississippi. Southern segregation was practically consensual among Blacks and Whites, at the time. Few advocated or risked change. Medgar Evers was one of the few brave and vibrant to see a different life for Blacks. The book reveals that Medgar Evers became a foot soldier/field secretary for the NAACP (The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). He was inspired by the success of Martin Luther King and the non-violent (Gandhi) approach which proved immensely successful. The book chronicles the shift in Evers’ Civil Rights strategy when he met with King in 1956. Evers’ documentation of the struggles of Blacks against repression began at this point too. Medgar Evers championed the cause of awareness and civil disobedience in order to achieve voting and equal rights by speaking at churches, NACCP conferences, and writing letters. One of Medgar Evers most defiant communications (via telegram) appears in the book addressed to President Dwight Eisenhower. Evers challenged President Eisenhower to send Russian observers to Humphrey County, Mississippi, where a minister (Reverend Lee) was killed and a citizen shot (Mr. G. Courts) in the cause of exercising the right to vote. Evers presented this challenge to the President during the time that America admonished Russia for not fostering human rights. The Cold War with Russian, abroad, paled in contrast to the Civil Rights war on the home front. Evers continued to fight until he was brutally silenced by the cowardly act of the sniper Bryon De La Beckwith, a member of the White Citizens’ Council of America. However, Evers’ ultimate sacrifice became the catalysis for the full advancement of the Civil Rights movement in America.

Critique: I remember the assassination of Medgar Evers and the outrage and shock in the Black community that I grew up in. But, I had not realized the depth of the danger that Medgar Evers presented to apartheid in America. Evers challenged segregation when he submitted his application for admittance to a White-only law school in Mississippi. He challenged the peace and decorum of well-established Blacks when he called upon them to boycott and vote. Evers chronicled Bayard Rustin’s trips and collaborations with Kwame Nkrumah, Nnamdi Azikiwi, and Prime Minister Nehru. This book enlightened me to the real danger of a domestic movement as it advances to an international movement. Does anyone recall the Arab Spring of 2011? History may offer us many lessons. I recommend that we revisit the past, address the present, and see the future of Civil Rights through this book.

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