Friday, January 07, 2011

Myrlie Evers-Williams to speak at UM Jan. 11

Carmichael Library commemorates the Montevallo visit of Myrlie Evers-Williams with a display of related materials. First, this announcement and biography of Mrs. Evers-Williams from the UM Office of Public Relations:

Nationally known civil rights activist Myrlie Evers-Williams will be the featured speaker for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. program at UM Jan. 11, 2011, at 7 p.m. The location of the presentation will be announced at a later date. The topic of her talk will be "Forging the Dream: Leadership by Action and Not by Design."

Widow of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers, she has never been content to rest on her late husband’s laurels. She garnered the national spotlight as the first woman elected board of directors chair of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She was elected chairperson to lead the nation’s oldest civil rights organization in 1995 at a time when it had been surrounded by scandal and controversy. Her positive reputation among civil rights activists, and blacks in general, made her election a cause for renewed optimism among NAACP supporters.

In early 1998, Evers-Williams decided not to run for another term as NAACP chairperson and instead chose to pursue other projects. In particular, she started the Medgar Evers Institute to promote education, training and economic development. Civil rights leader, Julian Bond, succeeded Evers-Williams as NAACP chairperson.

Evers-Williams was born in Vicksburg, Miss., and was raised by her grandmother and an aunt. In 1950 she enrolled at the then all-black Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Alcorn State University) in Lorman, Miss. Starting in 1954, Evers-Williams worked full-time as field secretary for the NAACP in Mississippi. She served as her husband’s secretary in the Jackson office of the NAACP, and in that capacity played a significant role in advancing the civil rights cause. In June 1963, Medgar Evers was shot and killed as he entered his Jackson home. His murder brought national attention to the evils of racism in the South, particularly in Mississippi. Byron De La Beckwith was tried several times, but was not convicted of the murder until 1994. Although devastated personally by her loss, Evers-Williams became a symbol of courage as well as tragedy in the civil rights movement. She and co-author William Peters wrote a biography of her late husband, For Us, The Living.

Evers-Williams moved to California in 1964, where she received her B.A. from Pomona College in 1968, lectured for the NAACP and began a career in business. She remained active in civil rights work and politics, running unsuccessfully for Congress of the United States in 1970 and serving as commissioner of public works for Los Angeles in 1987. She also worked for two years for an advertising agency, and for 10 years she was the director of community affairs for a Los Angeles corporation.

Her life has been the inspiration for two movies, For Us the Living: The Medgar Evers Story and Ghosts of Mississippi. Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg portrayed her in Ghosts of Mississippi.

Carmichael Library commemorates the Montevallo visit of Myrlie Evers-Williams with a special display of books and DVDs related to the history and development of the NAACP. Please feel free to check out any of the materials now on display on the library's Main Floor.

On the Web:

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