April is a lot of things. As Mrs. Trusty pointed out yesterday, it’s OT Month (watch out for the Snapple machine). It’s also Poetry Month. So for today’s new book, I thought I’d highlight a book in verse.
Frank X Walker’s Turn Me Loose tells the story of Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers. Evers grew up in Mississippi and served in the Army in World War II. When he returned after the war, he went to college, got married, found a job, and settled into the Civil Rights movement. He worked to break down the Jim Crow laws and even applied to the segregated University of Mississippi Law School as a test case for the NAACP. As he became more active and helped investigate the deaths of people like Emmet Till, he became an target for white supremacists. In June of 1963, Evers was assassinated in his driveway by Bryon De La Beckwith, a member of the White Citizen’s Council.
Walker’s collection of poetry tells the story of Evers by telling the story of the people around him. Short poems paint a picture of life in Mississippi from both sides of the Civil Rights movement. While Evers himself is not a voice in the book, you hear about the atmosphere and the tragedy through the characters of De La Beckwith and his family and through Evers’s family, specifically his wife and brother.
I’ll be honest, while this book is short and can be read quickly, it is not an easy read. The ideas expressed by the De La Beckwiths can be disturbing and the experiences related by the Everses are heartbreaking. But it’s a good book to read. I’ve done a lot of reading up on Medgar Evers since I read this book…I knew his name, but not much about him when I started it. He has a fascinating story. For a quick primer on his life, check out (yep, I’m going to say it) the Wikipedia article on him (remember, I’ve always said Wikipedia is a good jumping off point).
Interesting “current events” fact I found in that article. There used to be a TV show on called In the Heat of the Night. It was a cop show, set in Mississippi, that often dealt with racial issues since it focused on two cops, one white, one Black. There was one episode that seems to reference Evers’s murder. The Bryon De La Beckwith character is played by James Best, who is perhaps best known for playing Sheriff Roscoe on The Dukes of Hazard, and who just passed away yesterday.