Medgar & Myrlie: Medgar Evers and the Love Story That Awakened America by Joy-Ann Reid

c.2024, Mariner Books             
343 pages

By Terri Schlichenmeyer
The Truth Contributor

Romeo and Juliet

Abelard and Heloise. Beyonce and Jay Z. For centuries, we’ve studied the great romances, cried over them, and dreamed of having one of our own. Some of the great romances are educational. They impress and entertain. And in the new book Medgar & Myrlie by Joy-Ann Reid, some can inspire.

When Medgar Evers came home from World War II, he figured that if he was good enough to be a soldier, he was good enough to be treated the same as a white man. He was 25 years old, outspoken, bold… and a gentleman when he met Myrlie Beasley.

He was at college on the GI Bill. She was a freshman, away from her grandmother and aunt for the first time. She didn’t know quite what to think about Medgar Evers. Mama and Aunt Myrlie wanted “Baby Sister” to get a good education. They had big dreams for her, and marriage wasn’t one of them.

Still, Medgar “intrigued” her and their romance went slow but “Myrlie didn’t dare tell Mama.” It took a while for him to tell her that he loved her. Medgar was always ordering her around and they argued sometimes. After she told her elders about this man she was dating, Medgar had to “court” Mama and Aunt Myrlie almost as hard as he’d courted their girl.

On Christmas Eve, 1951, Medgar and Myrlie were married. Much to her chagrin, they moved to Mound Bayou, Mississippi, the next summer, where he’d taken a job selling insurance – but just as often, he was helping his people escape debtors and danger, and Myrlie was afraid. Even after they started a family, after they moved back to Jackson to a safer neighborhood, she feared for his life because of the ties he had, the work he was doing with the NAACP, and the beliefs he’d held. That was the kind of man Medgar was, and she’d always known it.

And one summer’s evening in 1963, she knew that she’d have to live without him forever.

In the early pages of Medgar & Myrlie, author Joy-Ann Reid insists that her book is a “love story.” She’s right – it is, but it’s not like one of those cheap paperbacks you find at the grocery store. It’s a boy-meets-girl, a sweet tale of two people who cleave together, but also so much more. More substance. More history. More afterward.

More heartbreak.

Indeed, you know what happens in this romance and the fact that it does and it did makes this love story more poignant and more terrifying. You know what happened more than 60 years ago, and you can’t go back and undo it. You want a happily-ever-after that never arrives, but in the worst way. Do you even want to be told that Reid will rattle you time and again, even before you get to 1963?

The shining knight in this story wears working man’s clothes. The maiden fears a different kind of Dragon. You can’t miss their story, so find Medgar & Myrlie. You’ll love it.