In Birmingham, we learned about one way that children were involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Many participated in a downtown protest during the 1963 Birmingham Campaign, because unlike their parents, protesting did not risk their jobs or financial security. These children were attacked in nearby Kelly Ingram Park with fire hoses and police dogs because of their nonviolent actions.
Here, they were just as involved as any other member of the movement. The police beat them and arrested them the same as they did the adults. In Money, Mississippi, fourteen-year-old Emmett Till was lynched and murdered for allegedly speaking inappropriately to a white woman. Again in Birmingham, the bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church killed four girls all under the age of fourteen. These occurrences make it clear that children were involved in the struggle for civil rights, but there is more to the story than just this.
On June 12, 1963 Medgar Evers was shot in the back as he reached into the trunk of his car to retrieve t-shirts he had gathered for an upcoming march. He died soon after from the wound. When he was shot, his wife and three children were in the house. They heard the gunfire and immediately crawled into the bathroom, the safest room in the house. When Myrlie Evers, his wife, heard talking outside she left the house to see what happened. Her husband was lying under their carport, and a bullet had gone through their front window, a wall, and ricocheted off of their fridge. If people today know about the tragic death of Medgar Evers, they likely just know the basics. Going into the Evers’ home allowed us to learn a lot more about the story.
The part of Medgar’s horrible death that stood out the most to me was the effect that it had on his children. One of his sons, Darrel, who was nine at the time of the shooting, did not speak for a long period of time after his father died because of the shock. This fact was very saddening to hear and something that is not common knowledge. The hardest part of this story for me to comprehend was how his family was able to continue living in their home. They moved to California a year after his death, but for a year they stayed in a home that had a bullet hole through the wall.
I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been for his three young children to walk past that wall every day, and be forced to remember the tragedy of that night. It must have been very hard on Myrlie as well, but from a child’s perspective it would be very difficult to comprehend, and to deal with.
The story of the Evers children is the first that I have heard, but I am confident that many people who were children during the movement had similar experiences. Medgar Evers was certainly not the only father killed in the fight for civil rights. There must be countless other children who lost parents to the struggle, and were forever affected because of it. We always hear about people directly affected by violence, but it is not often that we stop to consider the impact this can have on their loved ones, especially the young ones. A great man, a valuable asset to the NAACP and the Civil Rights Movement was killed. The story is only more hallowing when one considers the three young children who were left without a father and who were forced to see the hole of the bullet that killed him every day for a year. This only makes me wonder about how the violence of the Civil Rights Movement affected other children, whether their family experienced violence, they witnessed it, or they simply heard about it.