Medgar Evers was an African American civil rights activist from Mississippi who worked to overturn segregation at the University of Mississippi and to enact social justice and voting rights. He is remembered for saying “You can kill a man, but you can’t kill an idea.”
He became active in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and became a field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Following the 1954 ruling of the United States Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated public schools were unconstitutional, he worked to gain admission for African Americans to the state-supported public University of Mississippi. He also worked on voting rights and registration, economic opportunity, access to public facilities, and other changes in the segregated society.
Evers was assassinated by a member of the White Citizens’ Council, a group formed in 1954 to resist integration of schools and civil rights activity. His murder and the resulting trials inspired civil rights protests, as well as numerous works of art, music and film. All-white juries failed to reach verdicts in the first two trials but a conviction was finally reached in 1994 based on new evidence.
Myrlie Evers, his widow, became a noted activist in her own right, serving as national chair of the NAACP. His brother Charles Evers was the first African-American mayor elected in Mississippi in the post-Reconstruction era.