On the evening of June 12, 1963 -- the day President John F. Kennedy gave his most impassioned speech about the need for interracial tolerance "Medgar Evers, the NAACP's first field secretary in Mississippi, was shot and killed by an assassin's bullet in his driveway. The still-smoking gun -- bearing the fingerprints of Byron De La Beckwith, a staunch white supremacist -- was recovered moments later in some nearby bushes. Still, Beckwith remained free for over thirty years, until Evers's widow finally forced the Mississippi courts to bring him to justice. The Autobiography of Medgar Evers tells the full story of one the greatest leaders of the civil rights movement, bringing his achievement to life for a new generation. Although Evers's memory has remained a force in the civil rights movement, the legal battles surrounding his death have too often overshadowed the example and inspiration of his life. Myrlie Evers-Williams and Manning Marable have assembled the previously untouched cache of Medgar's personal documents, writings, and speeches. These remarkable pieces range from Medgar's monthly reports to the NAACP to his correspondence with luminaries of the time such as Robert Carter, General Counsel for the NAACP in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case. Most important of all are the recollections of Myrlie Evers, combined with letters from her personal collection. These documents and memories form the backbone of The Autobiography of Medgar Evers a cohesive narrative detailing the rise and tragic death of a civil rights hero.
In an era filled with charismatic leaders, Evers (1925 1963) came to national attention primarily as the victim of "the first political assassination of a major leader of the modern Black Freedom Movement." As NAACP field secretary in Mississippi, Evers recruited NAACP members, desegregated schools, registered voters and organized boycotts. The work was usually undramatic, but always perilous. Evers's widow and historian Marable seek to redress Evers's relative absence from the historical record. But more than half of these 89 documents (from the years 1954 1963) are mundane monthly reports to or business correspondence with the NAACP. Ten Evers speeches are included along with eight newspaper articles, four press releases, a telegram to Eisenhower and one to Kennedy, an NAACP newsletter, a "text fragment," a posthumous Life interview. There's no clue to the principle of selection. With the exception of two very brief notes to his family, there is no personal correspondence. This monument is a tomb ready for excavation by historians of the Civil Rights movement, but it's not for the ordinary reader looking for an autobiography of Medgar Evers. It reveals the quotidian work rather than the indomitable man.