Civil Rights activist headlines MLK Jr. commemorative celebration

7 things you should know about Medgar Evers

  • Evers was a World War II veteran who participated in the Normandy invasion
  • He was the NAACP’s first field secretary in the South
  • One of Evers’ first assignments was investigating the murder of Emmett Till
  • Evers helped integrate Ole Miss
  • Evers was shot just hours after President Kennedy had delivered a landmark speech on civil rights
  • It took 31 years to bring Evers’ assassin to justice
  • Medgar Evers’ widow has carried on his legacy

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Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain Mississippi civil rights activist Medgar Evers, continued her late husband’s advocacy for civic engagement and social justice as the keynote speaker of Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania’s 21st annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Celebration on Feb. 25 at Carver Hall’s Kenneth S. Gross Auditorium.

Myrlie Evers-Williams

Evers-Williams, former chair of the NAACP, discussed “Tomorrow’s Leaders: Their Voices, Our Journey." Her visit was held in collaboration with Bloomsburg University’s year-long 175th anniversary celebration, co-sponsored by the Multicultural Center and 175th Anniversary Committee.

Evers-Williams has become a symbol of courage and perseverance in the march toward social justice. She worked for more than three decades to seek justice for the murder of her husband, who was gunned down in their driveway by a white supremacist on June 12, 1963, just hours after President John F. Kennedy’s famed civil rights address. A year ago, she delivered the invocation at the inauguration of President Barack Obama.

She made history in 1995 when she was elected as the first female chairperson of the NAACP, helping to lead the organization from debt to financial stability during her three-year term. She also founded the Medgar Evers Institute to promote education, training and economic development while exposing new generations of students to the cause of civic engagement and social justice. In addition, she was instrumental in launching “Youth for Unity,” a diversity education program designed to fight injustice and intolerance.

Evers-Williams was the latest distinguished speaker to lead Bloomsburg University’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Celebration. Past keynote speakers have included:

  • Julian Bond, a social activist and leader in the American civil rights movement, politician, professor, and writer
  • Rev. Jesse Jackson, an American civil rights activist and Baptist minister, and was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988
  • Herman Boone, a former high school football coach, most famous for coaching at T. C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., and was portrayed by Denzel Washington in the 2000 film Remember the Titans.
  • Martin Luther King III, a human rights advocate and community activist, as well as the eldest son and oldest living child of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King.

The annual celebration has also been headlined by civil rights-themed performances, such as “The Meeting,” a presentation that looked at what could have happened if Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. had met, and the Harlem Gospel Choir, one of the nation's most prominent gospel choirs.

Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The university, celebrating 175 years of excellence in 2014, serves approximately 10,000 students, offering comprehensive programs of study in the colleges of Education, Business, Liberal Arts and Science and Technology.