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Medgar Evers’ wife revisits his legacy 50 years later

During the annual Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage, Myrlie Evers-Williams spoke about how Medgar Evers was killed in front of the house where he died. Watch an excerpt of her speech in the video above.

The 14th Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage recently wended its way through Mississippi, with its annual stop at the Jackson home where civil rights activist and NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers was assassinated by Byron De La Beckwith in 1963. Evers’ widow, activist Myrlie Evers-Williams, spoke of the events of that day with her daughter, Reena, by her side. Evers-Williams called the family home—now a small museum—“hallowed ground” and recalled her children in the driveway pleading, “Daddy get up, get up.” In spirit, she said, he did: “I’ve seen Medgar getting up on a continuing basis.”

For her part, Reena Evers-Everett said she’s getting ready to move back to Jackson to “get down and do grassroots and touch all the generations and pass it on.” She urged the group to, “continue all of the fights that we have out there, because it’s about our human rights, not just the civil rights.”

Jerry Mitchell is an investigative reporter for the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi whose dogged work—combined with the work of a new generation of aggressive federal and local prosecutors—led to the reinvestigation of Civil Rights-era killings. To date, there have been 24 convictions as a result of his reporting. The U.S. Department of Justice has re-opened more than 100 cases in all.

During the Pilgrimage stop, Jerry Mitchell, investigative reporter with The Clarion-Ledger, speaks about the importance of returning to the house where Medgar Evers was killed and the “courage” of Evers.

Covering the courts in 1980 when the film “Mississippi Burning” came out, Mitchell was inspired to look into the “cold cases.” (He was portrayed in the 1996 Rob Reiner film, “Ghosts of Mississippi” about the murder of Medgar Evers and the belated effort to bring his killer Byron De La Beckwith to justice.) In 1994, De La Beckwith was convicted of assassinating Evers; two previous trials in 1964 on this charge had resulted in hung juries.

What makes Mitchell’s work at The Clarion-Ledger even more interesting is that before and during the Civil Rights era, the paper and its now-defunct afternoon sibling, the “Jackson Daily News” helped perpetuate segregation and, as some Mississippians told us, inflame it.

The NewsHour retraced Mitchell’s work in Jackson in 2002 for this Emmy-nominated profile of the Clarion-Ledger and him.

Watch chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown’s broadcast report on the annual Congressional Civil rights Pilgrimage on Friday’s broadcast of the PBS NewsHour. You can tune in to our Ustream Channel at 6 p.m. EDT or check your local PBS listings.

Where Poetry Lives” is a special NewsHour series featuring reports on issues that matter to Americans through the framework of poetry. Funded by the Poetry FoundationLibrary of Congress’ Poetry and Literature Center, the reports present U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey and NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown as they explore poetry and literature in various corners of American life.

The videos were shot by Spencer Cooper and Ryan Aubrey and edited by Victoria Fleischer. Frank Carlson contributed to this report.

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