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Medgar Evers

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Medgar Evers
Medgar Evers
Date of Birth: July 2, 1925
Place of Birth: Decatur, Mississippi
Date of Death: June 12, 1963
Place of Death: Jackson, Mississippi
Occupation: NAACP activist
Remarks: Assassinated

Medgar Evers (July 2, 1925June 12, 1963) was an African American civil rights activist from Mississippi.

Evers was a native of Decatur, Mississippi, and a graduate of Alcorn State University, located in Lorman, Mississippi. Upon completing his degree, he applied to the then-segregated University of Mississippi Law School, basing his attempt on the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the case of Brown v. Board of Education 347 US 483 that segregation was unconstitutional. When his application was rejected on grounds of race, Evers became the focus of an NAACP campaign to desegregate the school.

Evers himself became the NAACP's first field officer in Mississippi. He was involved in a boycott campaign against white merchants in Jackson and instrumental in eventually desegregating the University of Mississippi when it was finally forced to enroll James Meredith in 1962.

Just after midnight on 12 June 1963, Medgar Evers was assassinated just after pulling into his driveway. His death was mourned nationally, and he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. Bob Dylan wrote the song "Only a Pawn in their Game" about Evers and his assassin, and Nina Simone wrote "Mississippi Goddamn" in response to the event. The man believed to have been his assassin, white racist Byron De La Beckwith, was twice acquitted when all-white juries could not reach agreement, but in 1994 Beckwith was brought to trial on new evidence based on statements he made to others. During the trial, the body of Evers was exhumed from his grave for autopsy, and found to be in a surprisingly excellent state of preservation. Byron De La Beckwith was finally convicted on February 5, 1994, more than three decades after the murder. Beckwith appealed the verdict unsuccessfully, and he died in prison in 2001.

The 1996 film Ghosts of Mississippi tells the story of the 1994 trial. The Bob Dylan song "Only a Pawn in Their Game" focused on Evers' killing as an example of lowly operatives, doing the dirty work for their evil masters: "Two eyes took the aim/Behind a man's brain/But he can't be blamed/He's only a pawn in their game."

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