New Navy ship named in honor of civil rights activist Medgar Evers
Christened by his widow, Myrlie Evers-Williams
In an honor bestowed on only a handful of individuals, the United States Navy selected NAACP civil and voting rights icon Medgar Evers as the namesake of its newest ship. Christened in San Diego by his widow Myrlie Evers-Williams, the USNS Medgar Evers (T-AKE 13) will serve as a supply ship for the Navy starting in the first quarter of 2012.
“I am just so honored for Medgar and all of the other people who gave their lives in the Civil Rights Movement, particularly those in Mississippi. In my humble estimation, very few of them have received rightful acknowledgment of their contributions,” remarked Evers-Williams, during the christening ceremony on Nov. 12, with more than 1,000 persons in attendance. “He was a man who did believe in this country, and he believed in his people. He wanted things to be just and fair, and he was willing to work for that.” Evers-Williams served as the ship’s sponsor.
Medgar Wiley Evers, an Army veteran, was born and raised in Mississippi, where, after completing his military service in 1946, he returned to earn his degree from Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College (now Alcorn State University). After graduation, Evers began working on behalf of the NAACP in the fight to end segregation. In 1954, Evers became the first NAACP state field secretary in Mississippi.
As field secretary, Evers organized boycotts and demonstrations to bring attention to the pervasive discrimination and urged an end to racial injustice. He also led the investigation into the murder of Emmitt Till, who, at the age of 14, was killed for talking to a White woman.
Evers may be best remembered for his fight to secure voting rights for all Americans. He helped lead the charge for voting rights in Mississippi, organizing voter registration efforts across the state.
After returning from an NAACP meeting on June 12, 1963, Medgar Evers was assassinated outside his home by a member of the White Citizens’ Council. Just two months before his murder, Evers anticipated that his work for civil rights would bring about his demise. “I expect to be shot any time I step out of my car… if I die, it will be in a good cause.”
Evers’ murder served as one of the catalysts for President John F. Kennedy to request that Congress create a national civil rights bill.
“This is a truly special occasion,” said NAACP president and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “Medgar Evers has been an inspiration to so many in the civil rights community and across the country. This honor by our Navy is befitting of his legacy.”
“The Navy has bestowed a great honor upon an American hero who exhibited courage and commitment ‘not for self but for country’ and community in the face of unparalleled danger in the struggle for equality, justice and freedom,” Vice Chairwoman of the NAACP Board of Directors Roslyn M. Brock said in a statement.
“He was committed to his fellow human beings and the dream of making America a nation for all its citizens,” said Navy Secretary and former governor Ray Mabus during the dedication event.
USNS Medgar Evers is the 13th ship of the Lewis and Clark (T-AKE) Class of dry cargo ships NASSCO is building for the U.S. Navy. It began constructing USNS Medgar Evers in April 2010.
The ship is 689 feet long.
“Each ship in the T-AKE Class is named for a noted pioneer in our nation’s history,” said Fred Harris, president of the ship builder. “Mr. Evers was Army veteran of World War II and an important civil rights pioneer. The NASSCO team is proud to add Medgar Evers’ name to this distinguished list.”
Ella Baker, born Dec. 13, 1903, in Norfolk, Va., was a prominent, behind-the-scenes figure in the Civil Rights Movement. Known most for her work alongside more famous leaders like W.E.B. Du Bois, Thurgood Marshall, and Martin Luther King Jr., Baker inspired, mentored, and groomed some of the most up-front civil rights leaders and liberationists of the 20th century.
Her journey to leadership began as a child, when she listened to the stories her formerly-enslaved grandmother told her about slave revolts and the need to fight for justice.
Forty-five years after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was felled by an assassin’s bullet in Memphis, Tenn., the city and various civil rights and labor groups will commemorate his “advocacy” of the 1968 sanitation workers strike with a panel discussion, the renaming of historic Beale Street and a march to the infamous Lorraine Motel where King died. The motel is now part of the city’s National Civil Rights Museum.
In the wake of Barack Obama’s second inauguration, it is easy to forget about the daily indignities and terror African Americans have endured; easy to forget that simply surviving segregation required ordinary people to engage in extraordinary acts of courage every single day.
African Americans have been the most rapidly advancing oppressed people in the history of the world, according to some major historians. To come from brutal and hard slavery, with virtually no legal basic human rights, to rise to lawmakers, local leaders and ultimately the presidency of the United States of America within a 400-year span is a feat surpassed by few, if any other people.
Even though the Civil Rights Movement of the late 1950s and the 1960s has regularly been called the “moral movement for the soul of America,” and other such lofty names, essentially the movement was about getting the federal and state governments to enforce the laws that protected citizens from abuse by government, or the passage of new legislation in the absence of such effective protection. The movement was about law and law enforcement.