The U.S. Navy recently christened a new cargo and ammunition ship named after Medgar Evers, the World War II veteran and field secretary for the NAACP who played a central role in helping desegregate the University of Mississippi and was brutally assassinated in 1963. The USNS Medgar Evers will deliver food, ammunition, fuel and supplies to other ships at sea.
Myrlie Evers-Williams, Evers’ widow who was present at the christening of the ship, tells The Root that the honor has made her feel free because someone finally acknowledged her husband.
"At the christening of the USNS Medgar Evers, I had the feeling that perhaps I had completed that part of my mission. I would have people tell me, ‘Why do you keep pushing this?’ when I had already fought so hard, after three trials, to get a conviction of Medgar’s murderer. But I could never rest until Medgar was acknowledged. It became a grinding effort to have people say to me, "Medgar who?"
She also reflected on what the ship will be used for:
I can rest with the knowledge that this massive ship will be traveling the world with his name boldly emblazoned on it. It is a cargo supply ship with many purposes, but one of the outstanding purposes is its humanitarian one.
Take, for instance, if this ship had been built in commission with the Haiti earthquake nightmare. That ship would have been there. If would have been in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami. Those are the humanitarian kinds of things that Medgar believed in. This ship is a moving monument to him and to all those who worked alongside of him.
The news is a blessing for Evers’ loved ones, but another example of the eyebrow-raising practice of co-opting people of color movement histories for corporate and military causes.
Earlier this year when the Navy named a ship after labor and civil rights leader César Chávez, Colorlines.com’s Jamilah King wrote about icons she says are being re-branded for profit and empire. Among the other icons who made the list? Ernesto "Che" Guevara, former guerrilla solider and current fashion icon. And Malcolm X, who despite being brazenly opposed to U.S. imperialism, became the face of a new U.S. postage stamp back in 1999.