Reviews for Medgar & Myrlie

by Joy-Ann Reid

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A biography of Medgar Evers and his wife, Myrlie, who made a lasting partnership during the early Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi before his murder in 1963. MSNBC host Reid, author of The Man Who Sold America, weaves in details of the larger civil rights struggle through the intimate story of Evers and his not-always-smooth family life. Evers hailed from Black sharecroppers in Decatur, Mississippi, and he gained new insight into American segregation while serving in England, Belgium, and France during World War II. When he returned to the U.S. in 1946, he was determined to challenge systemic racism, starting with registering to vote in his county. While a student at Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College in Lorman, Mississippi, Evers met Myrlie Louise Beasley, a 17-year-old musician from Vicksburg; they were married within a year, cutting short her singing dreams. Reid emphasizes both Evers’ devotion to his growing family, first while living in Mound Bayou and working for Magnolia Mutual Life Insurance, and his absolute commitment to the civil rights struggle, serving in the Jackson office of the NAACP. His relentless traveling around the state and frequent absences, along with visitors constantly at their home, caused friction in the couple’s marriage. Moreover, Myrlie, whom the author interviewed extensively for the book, was constantly fearful for her husband’s safety. The lynching of Emmett Till in 1955, the bus boycott movement in Montgomery, Alabama, organized by Martin Luther King Jr., and James Meredith’s determination to crack segregation at the University of Mississippi in 1961 all helped galvanize Evers to action, increasing his profile as well as the danger to his life. His shooting was the first in a string of horrific assassinations in the South. Reid follows the three trials of the killer to his ultimate conviction in 1994. A poignant tale reminds readers of Evers’ continuing significance. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Publishers Weekly
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MSNBC host Reid (The Man Who Sold America) presents a moving dual biography of civil rights icon Medgar Evers (1925–1963) and his wife, Myrlie, born in 1933. The two met and fell in love in 1950 as college students in Mississippi. They married in 1951, and Myrlie took care of their three children as Medgar became increasingly active in opposing racism; in 1952, he was a founding member of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership, and, in 1954, he became the NAACP’s field secretary for Mississippi. Myrlie grew concerned as her husband’s visibility made him a target for racists, and her worst fears were realized when Medgar was gunned down in the family’s driveway in 1963. His murderer, white nationalist Byron De La Beckwith, was quickly arrested, but evaded conviction by two all-white juries. However, Myrlie’s lobbying of the district attorney and collaboration with a local reporter eventually led to a new trial that resulted in De La Beckwith’s conviction in 1994. Along the way, Myrlie became a national civil rights leader herself, serving as the NAACP’s national chair in 1995. Reid’s access to Myrlie and the couple’s two surviving children enables her to make their tragic yet ultimately inspiring story accessible and human, while still firmly conveying Medgar and Myrlie’s courageousness. This is a rousing tribute to a legendary American family. (Feb.)

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Acclaimed for her cogent analysis and spirited commentary on matters of social justice, MSNBC host Reid focuses her keen appreciation on the legacy of the marriage of iconic civil rights activists Medgar and Myrlie Evers. Reid positions it as a love story, not just of their affection for each other and their family but also for the “higher love it took for Black Americans to love America and to fight for it.” Medgar was already committed to the struggle for racial equality when he met Myrlie, several years his junior and mired in the circumspect world of Southern womanhood. He saw in her a strength she did not know she possessed, one that would serve her well after Medgar’s assassination in June 1963. Myrlie lived in fear of her husband’s violent death, and Reid handles that raw emotion with sterling respect. Buoyed by first-person interviews with Myrlie herself as well as vibrant research into the tumultuous and indelible days of Freedom Riders and sit-ins, police brutality and FBI surveillance, Reid’s spotlight shines brightest on the commitment the Everses made to the movement and to each other. As is befitting of the biographies of true heroes, Reid’s double portrait soars and inspires.