Statement by Chairperson Benno Schmidt, Vice Chairperson Philip Alfonso Berry, Medgar Evers College Presidential Search Committee Chairperson and Trustee Valerie Lancaster Beal, and Chancellor Matthew Goldstein

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights leader Medgar Evers, we ask that flags on all CUNY campuses be lowered to half-staff on June 12 and that each campus engage in appropriate educational activities to commemorate his legacy.

The City University of New York has long recognized Medgar Evers’ significant contributions to civil rights and human dignity. In 1970, the University named a new senior college in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn in his honor. At the naming ceremony, his widow, Myrlie Evers, received a scroll that cited his “effective contribution to the cause of human freedom and dignity … In choosing the name Medgar Evers, it is our hope that his ideals will inspire students and faculty of the college in their pursuit of truth as the surest path to human freedom and social justice.”

It is significant to reflect back on 1963, when the struggle for civil rights for African-Americans – for all Americans – was at center stage. It is even more significant for us to ensure that today’s students – some of whom might not have been able to enjoy the benefit and promise of a college education had it not been for the sacrifices made by heroes like Medgar Evers – understand his legacy.

In 1963, just hours before Medgar Evers was murdered, President Kennedy gave a nationally televised speech in support of civil rights. That and Medgar Evers’ assassination arguably set the stage for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which President Lyndon Baines Johnson pushed through Congress.

1963 also was the year that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at The City College of New York commencement, two months before his “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C. “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy,” Dr. King said at City College. “Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God’s children.”

Medgar Evers – who faced down those who denied him entry to the University of Mississippi Law School, who braved prior assassination attempts, who organized ceaselessly for the right of black people to vote – once said: “You can kill a man, but you can’t kill an idea.” Medgar Evers’ ideas and ideals will always be a part of all of us.

Benno Schmidt,
Chairperson, CUNY Board of Trustees

Philip Alfonso Berry,
Vice Chairperson, CUNY Board of Trustees

Valerie Lancaster Beal,
Trustee and Chair of the Medgar Evers College Search Committee for a New President

Matthew Goldstein,