Interview with Myrlie Evers
QUESTION 23
INTERVIEWER:

OK. ALL RIGHT.

Myrlie Evers:

The 1954 school desegregation decision had a profound impact upon everyone, certainly in Mississippi. It was met with a great deal of hope—

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

THIS WILL BE—

Myrlie Evers:

—Supreme Court decision to desegregate schools in 1954 had a profound impact upon both blacks and whites in the state of Mississippi. And of course, that decision was met with different feelings. The whites in Mississippi saw it as an assault upon them, their way of life. There were threats, both in press, calls that were, were made back and forth…. The 1954 school desegregation act had profound impact upon everyone in Mississippi. And of course, there were two reactions to it. The blacks felt very positive. It gave a degree of hope. It was a signal to start moving in a direction. It was a focus. Of course, there was a tremendous amount of fear as well that went along with what we would have to do to implement the school desegregation act. In the white community it was quite different, as one would expect. There were flaming editorials about blood flowing in the street, about what would happen to the dear little white children if ever blacks and whites went to school together. There were certainly calls to eliminate all black leadership, and at that time there were one or two that were actually, actually visible. But as a result of that decision, as a result of the growing organization of the NAACP, regardless of how difficult it was to get people to overcome their fears, we began to press on that. As people began to sign petitions, I recall what a difficult time Medgar had trying to persuade people to sign the petitions to desegregate the schools. People found that their lives were threatened, that their jobs were lost, that their names were printed in newspapers throughout their communities, and were, the ads actually said, these are the people who have signed, you know what to do, to get back at them. I can recall a couple of people being pulled by rope behind cars. All of those kinds of things took place and on one hand it helped to strengthen the, determination of people to join the NAACP, because that was the only organization that was doing anything that was visible there. And it also said to the whites that we have to organize better. They formed the White Citizens Councils and other groups, and that was the beginning, really, of a major clash that went throughout the sixties. [overlap].