In 1948, Medgar Evers arrived at Alcorn College with a GI Bill, a football scholarship and eyes that had seen two very different sides of the same world.

Mississippi represented one side. Evers grew up in Decatur, a farming town buried inside a state in which extreme racial divisiveness was status quo for the times.

But at 23 years old, Evers, the great-grandson of a slave, also had seen a world that was as different from Mississippi as moonlight and sunlight.

Evers served in the Army and fought in the Battle of Normandy during World War II. Stationed in France, he had a French girlfriend and marveled at how he was more accepted in another country than his own home. It gave him hope that one day he could fully enjoy the rights he’d been systematically denied in America.

Alcorn was a perfect landing spot — and basically the only landing spot. Alcorn and Jackson State were the only two universities African-Americans in Mississippi could attend. Like all historically black colleges and universities at the time, Alcorn was a safe haven for blacks who wanted to pursue an education but were unable to do so in mainstream America because of widespread racism and discrimination.

Evers thrived at Alcorn. He majored in business, captained the football team, lettered in track and was a member of the debate team.

Evers was eager to figure out how to merge both sides of the world he’d seen. Some would say the slain Civil Rights activist — who was assassinated in his own driveway in 1963 — accomplished that after he left Alcorn. He organized boycotts against gas stations that refused to service black customers. He vigorously campaigned to desegregate the University of Mississippi, which denied his law school application but eventually was forced to accept James Meredith in 1962.

But 50 years after Evers fought for Meredith’s enrollment, integration continues to be a touchy issue in the state of Mississippi.

Alcorn State president M. Christopher Brown II couldn’t risk the information being leaked, so he took every precaution. Brown knew once people found out who he had hired as his next football coach, he’d have a lot of questions to answer. This was a historic hire for not just Alcorn, but the entire Southwestern Athletic Conference. read more…