JULY 2, 1946

Credit: National Park Service

On his 21st birthday, Medgar Evers and six other World War II veterans, including his brother, Charles, tried to vote in Decatur, Mississippi, only to be turned away by an armed White mob. 

That day, Medgar Evers vowed that he would never be whipped again. He and other Black war veterans joined together to fight the civil rights movement. 

After graduating from Alcorn College, he tried to enroll at the University of Mississippi School of Law — only to be turned away. NAACP officials considered taking up his case but were so impressed with him they decided instead to hire him as first field secretary for the Mississippi NAACP. 

He put thousands of miles a year on his Oldsmobile, recruiting new members, reviving branches and investigating often unpunished violence against Black Americans, including the 1955 murder of Emmett Till. 

On May 20, 1963, he talked on television about the mistreatment of Black Mississippians: “The years of change are upon us. In the racial picture things will never be as they once were. History has reached a turning point, here and over the world.” 

Three weeks later, he was assassinated in the driveway of his Jackson home. On his birthday in 1964, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, and President Lyndon B. Johnson signed it hours later.

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The stories of investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell have helped put four Klansmen and a serial killer behind bars. His stories have also helped free two people from death row, exposed injustices and corruption, prompting investigations and reforms as well as the firings of boards and officials. He is a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a longtime member of Investigative Reporters & Editors, and a winner of more than 30 other national awards, including a $500,000 MacArthur “genius” grant. After working for three decades for the statewide Clarion-Ledger, Mitchell left in 2019 and founded the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting.