In this Aug. 9, 1955 file photo, Medgar Evers, state secretary for the NAACP poses for a photo in Jackson, Miss. The historic home of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers is now a national monument, the U.S. interior secretary and members of Mississippi’s congressional delegation announced Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. The designation for the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home was required by a law President Donald Trump signed in March 2019. (AP Photo/File)
By Emily Wagster Pettus
The Associated Press
The historic home of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers is now a national monument, the U.S. interior secretary and members of Mississippi’s congressional delegation announced Dec. 10.
The designation for the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home was required by a law President Donald Trump signed in March 2019.
The Interior Department said in a news release Dec. 10 that Tougaloo College conveyed ownership of the home to the National Park Service in June. The modest ranch-style house in Jackson is currently closed to the public, but the park service will make plans to open it to visitors in the coming months.
Medgar Evers was the Mississippi NAACP leader when he was assassinated outside the home in June 1963 while his wife, Myrlie, and their three children were inside.
Democratic U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, the only Black member of Mississippi’s current congressional delegation, worked 16 years to make the Evers home a national monument.
“The designation of his home is an everlasting tribute to his legacy,” Thompson said in a statement. “Mr. Evers was an inspiration to all Americans by dedicating his life to others and fighting against racism and discrimination.”
Medgar Evers was a World War II veteran who fought in Europe and returned to his native Mississippi, where he again faced harsh segregation. As the first field secretary of the Mississippi NAACP beginning in 1954, he led voter registration drives and boycotts to push for racial equality. He also investigated lynchings, beatings and other violence that Black residents suffered at the hands of white segregationists.
Myrlie Evers was national chairwoman of the NAACP from 1995 to 1998. After living in Mississippi in recent years, she has moved back to California, where she raised her three children after their father’s death.
“Medgar Evers was a true American hero who fought the Nazis at Normandy and fought racism with his wife Myrlie on the home front,” Interior Secretary David L. Bernhardt said. “The life works of these great Americans helped shape our nation in making the United States a more perfect union, and for that, we should all be grateful.”
In 1993, the Evers family donated the home to Tougaloo, a historically Black college that was a hub of civil rights activism. The three-bedroom home stood vacant for years after the family moved away in the 1960s, and it was restored in the mid-1990s. It is now filled with mid-century furniture, and one of the bedrooms has had a display about the family’s history. A bullet hole has remained visible in a kitchen wall.
White supremacist Byron De La Beckwith was put on trial twice in the 1960s in the killing of Evers, but all-White juries deadlocked. The case was reopened in the early 1990s after new witnesses came forward, and in 1994 an integrated jury convicted Beckwith of murder and sentenced him to life in prison. Beckwith died in 2001.
The National Park Service named the Evers home a national historic landmark in 2016. In the joint statement with Thompson on Dec. 10, Republican U.S. Sens. Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith also praised the national monument status for the home.
“The Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home serves as a permanent reminder of the legacy of the Evers family, whose contributions advanced the cause of justice in our nation,” Wicker said.
Hyde-Smith said: “This new national site will also stand in recognition of the overall pursuit of equality and justice in Mississippi and our nation.