Recently, while delivering a lecture on my extensive, overwhelmingly Black collection of magazines, I showed the students the June 28, 1963, issue of Life, which cover showed a grieving Myrlie Evers consoling her young son at funeral services for the great warrior Medgar Evers.
Brother Medgar had been assassinated by a white racist terrorist in the war against white supremacy. During my lecture, I stopped and asked the students if they knew who Medgar Evers was. Only three of the 50 students raised their hands affirmatively. This means that 46 of the 49 Black students (one was white) had no idea of the major contributions that Brother Medgar had made in the fight for equal rights, equal opportunity and equal justice in the violently white supremacist state of Mississippi and throughout the former Confederate states of America.
My immediate reaction was anger at the students, but I caught myself when realizing their ages. However, I did explain to them that Brother Medgar’s son was crying hard for a father who had given his life to help the students and others enjoy some of the opportunities they have today.
“If Medgar Evers and hundreds of others had not put their lives on the line, you would not be in the position you are in today,” I told them. “It is absurd that someone from your homes, your churches, your schools, your fraternities and sororities, etc., have not made you aware of such a talented intelligent, determined and committed warrior.”
The situation once again confirmed my position that the education system in this country will never, in the foreseeable future, teach the real history of Black folks in the United States. It’s time for the aforementioned institutions and organizations to make teaching our history an integral part of their agenda.
In a February 1981 must-read Ebony magazine article, “Why Black History Is Important to You,” the brilliant journalist/historian Lerone Bennett Jr. stated that our history is a bet that our ancestors placed that we must now cover.
When 46 of 49 Black students in a university classroom don’t know who Medgar Evers was, it is clearly evident that we, as a group of Black people, are not covering the bet made by our ancestors. It also reinforces my belief that we, at least thus far, as a group of people we have not proven worthy of the supreme sacrifice made by ancestors such as Brother Medgar and numerous other warriors who were murdered and assassinated by white supremacist terrorists.