BOWLING GREEN STATE UNIVERSITY

January 28, 2008
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Myrlie Evers-Williams

Myrlie Evers-Williams

Remember the past, work for the future, says Myrlie Evers-Williams

Perseverance, keeping your “eyes on the prize” and remaining true to the memory and ideals of those who worked so hard to ensure equal rights and justice for all were recurring themes of Myrlie Evers-Williams Jan. 23. As the keynote speaker for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Celebration and in a press conference beforehand, Evers-Williams discussed her life before and after the 1963 assassination of her husband, civil rights leader Medgar Evers.

After his death, she took up the mantle of leadership and worked tirelessly to bring justice to his killer, serve as the first woman head of the NAACP, raise a family and serve her community. She even ran for Congress, in 1969-70, at a time when only three or four other women were running. That brought more criticism, for not staying in what society perceived as a woman’s place, to which she replied, “I have to work and I, too, want to build a better place for my children.”

She was naturally a shy person, she said, “but Medgar pushed me a lot to develop what he saw as my strengths.” That stood her in good stead when she had to go on alone, she said, despite her grief and sometimes near-despair. “My love for him kept me going,” she said. “Also, I felt that as long as I kept his name in front of the public he wouldn’t be forgotten—and maybe I was just ornery enough never to give up.”

Referring to the BGSU Gospel Choir’s rendition of the spiritual “I Can Make It,” Evers-Williams said it is important to keep believing that and to look for inspiration. She would like to see the remembrance of leaders like King and her husband be built into school curricula and community events year-round, both as encouragement and in their honor.
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