Medgar Wiley Evers served as the first Mississippi field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People from December 1954 until white extremist Byron De La Beckwith shot and killed Evers outside his Jackson home on 12 June 1963.
Charles Evers, Medgar’s older brother, subsequently worked to organize services to honor his memory. Shortly after playing to a crowd of ten thousand at the 1973 memorial service in Jackson, blues icon B. B. King told Charles Evers that there “ought to be some kind of yearly event to keep Medgar’s dream alive.” What had been, in Charles’s words, a “small Memorial Service on the second Sunday in June” became “three full days of celebrations.”
The Medgar Evers Homecoming Celebration connects individuals of all backgrounds and social status in remembrance of Evers, the civil rights struggle, and all those who gave their lives in the quest for social and political parity. The objective of this celebration, according to Charles Evers, “is to try to show how far we’ve come since Medgar Evers’s death. . . . Medgar didn’t die for black folks. He died for the freedom of all folks.” Until 1982 the annual event was held in Fayette, where Charles served two four-year terms as mayor. Event organizers then moved it to Jackson because of greater venues, overall convenience, and Medgar’s love of the city. Over the years the event has included forums discussing the civil rights movement, gospel expos, skydiving events, rodeos, carnivals, gospel and blues concerts, and an annual parade. Attendees have included such notables as James Earl Jones, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Danny Glover, Redd Foxx, Louis Gossett Jr., Muhammad Ali, Joe Namath, and Kris Kristofferson; Foxx and Ali have participated in the annual parade. Political figures such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Nelson Rockefeller have also supported the annual celebration.
The annual Medgar Evers Parade remains an integral part of the memorial celebration. Many individuals look forward to this portion of the commemoration, during which celebrity grand marshals, local political figures, organizations, schools, and community folk both stand and travel along well-marked routes to the sounds of music and neighborhood enthusiasm.
Organizers intend the event not only to celebrate the life of Medgar Evers but to inspire those in attendance to remember the struggle waged and the victories gained.
- Kenn D. Cockrell, in Medgar Evers Homecoming Booklet, June 4–6, 1982, Mississippi Department of Archives and History
- Medgar Wiley Evers Homecoming website, medgarevershomecoming.com
- Evers, Medgar Memorial Festival, Mississippi Department of Archives and History
- Forty-Fourth Annual Medgar Wiley Evers/B. B. King Mississippi Homecoming Booklet, May 31–June 2, 2007
- Michael Vinson Williams, Medgar Evers: Mississippi Martyr (2011)