Interview with Myrlie Evers
QUESTION 33
INTERVIEWER:

, WHEN MEREDITH WAS ENROLLED AT THE UNIVERSITY HOW DID YOU FEEL? WAS IT A TRIUMPH, VICTORY, WHAT WAS YOUR FEELING AT THAT POINT?

Myrlie Evers:

When Meredith enrolled in Old Miss it was a triumph. It was something that many people had worked for. It validated the legal system. It validated the NAACP's approach to this issue. It validated Medgar's involvement and the sacrifices, the hard work that he had put forth to try to help Meredith get in, and I think it validated Meredith in his ability to stick to it and see it through. And knowing full well that once he enrolled for the most part, he was going to be on his own, and he would have to survive by his strengths, and his wit. We did what you would call almost dance in the street as a result of it, because it was a major breakthrough. It said indeed that there is hope, and that we are moving forward and that perhaps the sacrifices that had been made had been worth it, because we are talking about not just one man's education, but what will happen for the rest of other generations yet to come. And we celebrated.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

TAKE TWENTY-SEVEN.

Orlando Bagwell:

—WHETHER THAT STRATEGY, WHETHER MEDGAR FELT THAT STRATEGY WORKED IN MISSISSIPPI AND I'D LIKE TO GET INTO IT BY GIVING US A SENSE OF REFERENCE THAT FREEDOM RIDES HAD GOTTEN INTO JACKSON. THESE KINDS OF THINGS WERE THINGS THAT MADE HIM KIND OF DEAL WITH IT, YOU KNOW, SO THAT IT WORKS IN THE CONTEXT OF THE STORY.

Myrlie Evers:

How can I describe Medgar in terms of being violent or nonviolent? , Medgar worked for the NAACP and certainly went along with the NAACP in their support in terms of legal redress, however, I have to say that he was not totally a nonviolent man. He believed in doing things in a nonviolent way if they could be accomplished in that manner. In Medgar's very early years of activity, when we lived in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, he started there the formation of a Mau Mau group based on the other Mau Maus that we know so well, Jomo Kenyatta and others. And he felt at that time that the only way we could gain our rights would be through violent action. He changed his mind, of course, but as he grew in his job in the NAACP, he found it necessary to have both sides. I recall an incident when he rode on a bus from Meridian to Jackson, Mississippi and at that time he was possibly the only black, maybe one other on the bus, and was hit, almost drug off of the bus. Medgar's inclination was to fight back but his common sense ruled and he realized that he would have been murdered right there on the spot. But he took that anger and that frustration to fuel himself for nonviolence in his activities. But when the students came along with their spontaneity, with their willingness to be hurt and to strike back if necessary, I think it was kind of a turning point for him. And he began to question the legal method and thought perhaps what we had to do was to perhaps arm ourselves. And that had not quite gelled in his mind as to exactly what he was going to do and that happened just before his death. Now, we had guns in our house in every room. I slept with a small revolver next to me on the nightstand. He slept with a rifle next to him, we had one in the hall, we had one in the front room. He had one with him the night that he was killed. And we often talked about that and he said, "Yes I will use it if it's necessary to protect myself, to protect my family, to protect my friends. However, Myrlie, one may never know if one will be able to get to the gun in time." And the night that he was killed, it was right there next to him, and he didn't have a chance to use it. And, and there was this, this switch and this change because he felt that perhaps we weren't moving fast enough, that the legal way was just a little bit too slow. I think Medgar was at a point in time where he was really questioning where he stood in the whole nonviolent movement.