For many of us the assassination of NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers is merely a chapter in our Civil Rights history books. It’s a clip in the countless civil rights documentaries we’ve watched in history classes. For Evers’ widow and daughter, that moment plays over-and-over in their minds.
“It never stops,” Evers’ daughter Reena said.
On Wednesday, Myrlie, 80, and Reena Evers shared the emotions of that horrific night after a sneak preview of journalist Steve Crump’s new documentary “Flashbacks and Tributes Of The Summer of 63.” Crump showed the Evers’ segment of the documentary. “Flashbacks” will air on PBS on Thursdays in February.
In an honest Q&A, Myrlie Ever (widow) and Reena (daughter) talked about the challenges Myrlie faced as grieving widow, a widow of an assassinated Civil Rights leader and the mother of three young children.
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The discussion started with the night Evers was gunned down in his Mississippi driveway. Medgar Evers turned his children into “little soldiers.” The way most kids practice fire drills at school, the Evers family prepared for firebombs and gunfire. They learned to drop, roll and crawl. They learned to use all of their senses to assess the situation.
Medgar and his wife Myrlie seemed to know he would be killed. The night before a solemnity fell over their home. The next day he called home more often than usual. That night, Reena heard her father’s car pull up. Her excitement quickly turned to panic when an enormous sound followed. Reena knew it wasn’t a backfire or a firecracker. She knew it was a gunshot because her parents’ taught her that too. Reena recalled dropping to the floor in the bedroom while pulling her baby brother down with her. They crawled to the bathroom and lay in the tub as their parent taught them.
Myrlie Evers says, “I rushed to the front door knowing full well what I would find.”
Her husband lie bleeding in the driveway tucked in front of her car. There was so much emotion, Evers said.
The children were yelling “Daddy get up!”
“I’m told I fought like a tiger,” Myrlie Evers said. “And I know I did.”
Evers said she was consumed by hatred more so than sadness. She couldn’t see her children everyday for at least a week because they reminded her so much of her slain husband.
“She was a great mother, but she was away,” Reena Evers said Wednesday.
In time, Evers and her children turned their hatred into activism. They continued to fight. Myrlie Evers formed a bond with Coretta Scott King (called Aunt Coretta) and Betty Shabazz and kept fighting.
“We understood what the other was going through,” Evers said. “We were there for each other.”
The Evers didn’t let the tragedy mire them in “woe is me.”
“It’s amazing how negative things can make you stronger,” said Myrlie Evers, who later remarried. “In spite of everything that happened, I have lived such a blessed life. You never get over it, but you get through. It’s about moving forward.”
Reena Evers has now been charged with carrying on her father’s legacy. Her mother talked about the need for her generation to move aside. Let’s challenge young people to think for themselves and find knew ways to reach out. Get the best and brightest ideas and start implementing them, she said.
“We have to think and act smart.”
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