Ghosts of Mississippi: The Murder of Medgar Evers, the Trials of Byron de la Beckwith and the Haunting of the New South

Ghosts of Mississippi: The Murder of Medgar Evers, the Trials of Byron de la Beckwith and the Haunting of the New South

by Maryanne Vollers, Vollers
     
 

The civil rights movement was just beginning to catch fire in Mississippi on the night in 1963 when white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith crouched in the honeysuckle across the street from NAACP leader Medgar Evers's house and shot him in the back. Three decades later, Beckwith was finally convicted of murder and sent to prison for life. It was his third trial - the…  See more details below

Overview

The civil rights movement was just beginning to catch fire in Mississippi on the night in 1963 when white supremacist Byron De La Beckwith crouched in the honeysuckle across the street from NAACP leader Medgar Evers's house and shot him in the back. Three decades later, Beckwith was finally convicted of murder and sent to prison for life. It was his third trial - the previous two having ended in mistrials in 1964 - and it concluded one of the most rankling cases of the civil rights era. In Ghosts of Mississippi, journalist Maryanne Vollers tells the inside story of that state's struggle to confront the ghosts of its violent past in order to bring a killer to justice. Medgar Evers was a martyr of the sixties, the first man down in the decade of the assassin. His murder might have gone unpunished if not for the uneasy alliance between his widow, who vowed to "go the last mile" for her husband, and a young white prosecutor who finally found the way. Vollers weaves a compelling narrative that captures the journey from the old South to the new. Drawing on her rare access to prosecutors, Evers's family, and Beckwith himself Vollers re-creates the events of Evers's life and death, while bringing to light new facts and insights into the assassination case and the conspiracy theories that surround it. The result is a thrilling tale of racism, murder, courage, redemption, and the ultimate triumph of justice.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
Though this book is a worthwhile account of the 1963 murder of Mississippi NAACP representative Medgar Evers and the eventual conviction last year of his killer, its subtitle suggests a difficult task. Indeed, freelance journalist Vollers spends the first third of the book leading up to Evers's murder, sketching his background and that of racist killer Byron De La Beckwith, as well as their state's racial climate. She then recounts the two mistrials in the case, the paths of Beckwith and widow Myrlie Evers and the evolution in Mississippi-a new breed of politicians, greater black political power and a more aggressive press-that set the stage for a new trial. A few passages jolt: Beckwith, during his last trial in 1994, deems a dark-skinned Indian motel manager "really a white man." Others resonate, as Vollers relates the patriotic Evers's earnest call for desegregation. Though somewhat broader in scope, this title is more diffuse and not as well written as Adam Nossiter's 1994 book, After Long Memory: Mississippi and the Murder of Medgar Evers.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Though this book is a worthwhile account of the 1963 murder of Mississippi NAACP representative Medgar Evers and the eventual conviction last year of his killer, its subtitle suggests a difficult task. Indeed, freelance journalist Vollers spends the first third of the book leading up to Evers's murder, sketching his background and that of racist killer Byron De La Beckwith, as well as their state's racial climate. She then recounts the two mistrials in the case, the paths of Beckwith and widow Myrlie Evers and the evolution in Mississippi-a new breed of politicians, greater black political power and a more aggressive press-that set the stage for a new trial. A few passages jolt: Beckwith, during his last trial in 1994, deems a dark-skinned Indian motel manager ``really a white man.'' Others resonate, as Vollers relates the patriotic Evers's earnest call for desegregation. Though somewhat broader in scope, this title is more diffuse and not as well written as Adam Nossiter's 1994 book, After Long Memory: Mississippi and the Murder of Medgar Evers. (Apr.)
Library Journal
According to journalist Vollers, the murder of Mississippi NAACP field secretary Evers (1925-63) and the subsequent trials of Byron de la Beckwith sum up the terror of racial segregation, the battle for blacks' civil rights, and a generation of change in Southern bearing and behavior on race. With care for the human elements, Vollers reviews the background of race, culture, class, and personality in Evers's shooting. She then follows the trials-the two acquittals in 1964 and the conviction in 1994. Her approach and easy-flowing prose recall fellow journalist Adam Nossiter's Of Long Memory: Mississippi and the Murder of Medgar Evers (LJ 6/1/94). For collections on Civil Rights, the South, or U.S. history. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/94.]-Thomas J. Davis, SUNY at Buffalo
Lillian Lewis
There are many "ghosts" in Mississippi, and Vollers uses every available resource to uncover them. Vollers fastens on the three-decade-old slaying of Medgar Evers, civil rights activist, and the three subsequent trials of the accused, Byron De La Beckwith, to stir up Mississippi's ghost. Her narrative and in-depth analysis of the events surrounding the trials are compelling: the interviews with those closely associated with the trials add credence to the presentation of the facts; the discussion of the relationships between civil rights and white supremacy organizations deepens understanding of the future association of these groups; and the critical analysis of the best and the worst of the Old and the New South seems well taken. Vollers does a superb job of examining the issues of civil rights, racism, and murder, and the effects of the murder of civil rights activists on the families of the victim and the murderers. In light of the recent announcement of Myrlie Evers' accession to NAACP board president, many will be interested in the Evers' family history.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780316914857
Publisher:
Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:
04/28/1995
Edition description:
1st ed
Pages:
411
Product dimensions:
6.41(w) x 9.55(h) x 1.24(d)

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