March 13, 2019 10:46:33 AM
JACKSON -- The Mississippi home of a slain civil rights leader became a national monument Tuesday as President Donald Trump signed a bill establishing the Medgar and Myrlie Evers Home National Monument in Jackson.
Medgar Evers was a World War II veteran who fought in Europe and returned to his native Mississippi, where he again faced harsh segregation. As the first field secretary of the Mississippi NAACP beginning in 1954, he led voter registration drives and boycotts to push for racial equality. He was assassinated June 12, 1963, outside the family's modest ranch-style home.
Myrlie Evers was national chairwoman of the NAACP from 1995 to 1998. After living in Mississippi in recent years, she moved back to California, where she raised her three children after their father's death.
"Medgar and Myrlie Evers are heroes whose contributions to the advancement of civil rights in Mississippi and our nation cannot be overstated," U.S. Sen Roger Wicker said in a statement. He and fellow Mississippi Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith co-sponsored the proposal.
The federal government will take over the modest ranch-style home from Tougaloo College, which supports the change, bringing money for preservation. The Evers family donated the home to historically black Tougaloo in 1993, and it is open by appointment for tours. The three-bedroom home stood vacant for years after the family moved away in the 1960s, and it was restored in the mid-1990s. It is now filled with midcentury furniture, and one of the bedrooms has a display about the family's history. A bullet hole is visible in a kitchen wall.
The National Park Service named the home a national historic landmark in 2016.
Medgar Evers was a mentor for Tougaloo students, including some who were arrested in 1961 for their sit-in challenging segregation in the main public library in Jackson.
Ben West of the National Park Service told Mississippi Public Broadcasting on Monday that the park service was waiting on the president's signature to begin planning the project, including parking, access and tour sizes, restrooms and other visitor services.
"The immediate next steps if and when it gets signed by the president is the park service would then seek to engage with Tougaloo College as the owner of the home, to work with them and the family as well," said West.
West said the plan calls for talking with neighbors. He said the project could be expanded to include nearby houses as part of a historic district.
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