Remembering Medgar Evers
Writing the Long Civil Rights Movement

Minrose Gwin

Remembrance of a major civil rights figure through writings and song

Reviews

"This is a book that should be widely read, shared with others, and placed in a spot of honor in every library. It tells important and all too often forgotten stories of the times with clarity and passion. It is a treasure."
—Myrlie Evers-Williams

"In Remembering Medgar Evers, Minrose Gwin has woven an intricately textured appreciation of that stunningly brave man, his tortured time, and the deeper meaning of his arduous life and brutal murder. Toiling in relative obscurity to overcome white supremacy in Mississippi, brought down by a racist assassin who publicly exulted for decades thereafter, Evers was both unique and representative of black Americans’ unfinished march toward full equality. Gwin makes sure that we cannot forget either reality."
—Hodding Carter, University Professor of Leadership and Public Policy, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


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Description

As the first NAACP field secretary for Mississippi, Medgar Wiley Evers put his life on the line to investigate racial crimes (including Emmett Till’s murder) and to organize boycotts and voter registration drives. On June 12, 1963, he was shot in the back by white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith as the civil rights leader unloaded a stack of “Jim Crow Must Go” T-shirts in his own driveway. His was the first assassination of a high-ranking public figure in the civil rights movement.

While Evers’s death ushered in a decade of political assassinations and ignited a powder keg of racial unrest nationwide, his life of service and courage has largely been consigned to the periphery of U.S. and civil rights history. In her compelling study of collective memory and artistic production, Remembering Medgar Evers, Minrose Gwin engages the powerful body of work that has emerged in response to Evers’s life and death—fiction, poetry, memoir, drama, and songs from James Baldwin, Margaret Walker, Eudora Welty, Lucille Clifton, Bob Dylan, and Willie Morris, among others. Gwin examines local news accounts about Evers, 1960s gospel and protest music as well as contemporary hip-hop, the haunting poems of Frank X Walker, and contemporary fiction such as The Help and Gwin’s own novel, The Queen of Palmyra. In this study, Evers springs to life as a leader of “plural singularity,” who modeled for southern African Americans a new form of cultural identity that both drew from the past and broke from it; to quote Gwendolyn Brooks, “He leaned across tomorrow.”

Fifty years after his untimely death, Evers still casts a long shadow. In her examination of the body of work he has inspired, Gwin probes wide-ranging questions about collective memory and art as instruments of social justice. “Remembered, Evers’s life’s legacy pivots to the future,” she writes, “linking us to other human rights struggles, both local and global.”

Series/imprint:
Mercer University Lamar Memorial Lectures

A Sarah Mills Hodge Fund Publication

Page count: 232 pp.
20 b&w photos
Trim size: 6 x 9

 

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Minrose Gwin is the Kenan Eminent Professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is coeditor of The Literature of the American South and the Southern Literary Journal. Her most recent books are The Queen of Palmyra (a novel), Wishing for Snow (a memoir), and The Woman in the Red Dress: Gender, Space, and Reading.