But there are also historic sites that are chillingly ordinary. Just another house on a suburban block. Nothing unusual. Any of us might have grown up there.
Doesn't ring a bell?
On June 12, 1963, Medgar Evers pulled up in the driveway, and stepped out of his car. As he walked into his home, ready to greet his wife and children, he was shot in the back with a bullet that richocheted into his home. He died 50 minutes later, just as President John F. Kennedy was concluding a nationally televised speech in support of civil rights.
The South being what it was, the shooter, a member of the White Citizens Council and the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, was arrested over a year later. The South being what it was, the shooter (who will remain nameless here, because why contribute to his memory?) was acquitted twice by all-white juries.
And yet again, the South being what it is now, brought the shooter to trial 30 years later, in 1994, and this time the jury convicted. The shooter, after living free for three decades, spent the rest of his life in prison, dying incarcerated in 2001.
Somewhere in Mississippi lives the man who murdered my husband. Sometimes at night when my new house in Claremont, California, is quiet and the children are in bed I think about him and wonder how he feels. I have never seriously admitted the possibility that he has forgotten what I can never forget, though I suppose that hours and even days may go by without his thinking of it. Still, it must be there, the memory of it, like a giant stain in one part of his mind, ready to spring to life whenever he sees a Negro, whenever his hate rises like a bitterness in the thraot. He cannot escape it completely.
And when that memory returns to him, I wonder if he is proud of what he did. Or if, sometimes he feels at least a part of the enormous guilt he bears. For it is not just that he murdered a man. He murdered a very special man -special to him, special to many others, not just special to me as any man is to his wife. And he killed him in a special way. He is not just a murderer. He is an assassin.
For Us, the Living by Mrs. Medgar Evers (Myrlie B. Evers) published 1967, offered for sale by Chewybooks, as of February 9, 2010.
The Medgar Evers Museum
2332 Margaret W. Alexander Drive
Jackson, Mississippi 39213
Open by appointment