Picks and Pans Review: Ghosts of Mississippi

updated 04/17/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 04/17/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Maryanne Vollers

As he climbed out of his car on a soggy June night in 1963, NAACP activist Medgar Evers was slain by a rifle shot in the back. The gunman had fired from behind a bush in a vacant lot across the street from the Evers house in Jackson, Miss. During the years that followed, all-white juries twice failed to convict Byron De La Beckwith, a white supremacist who had bragged to acquaintances about the killing. Beckwith later had the audacity to run for lieutenant governor using the unofficial campaign slogan "Elect Byron De La Beckwith—He's a Straight Shooter."

In her riveting account of Evers's murder and the 30-year crusade to bring his killer to justice, freelance journalist Vollers chronicles the social change that transformed the Deep South from a place where blacks could not vote and lynchings went unpunished to one where laws apply equally to all citizens.

Vollers excels at recounting the dogged efforts of state prosecutors, working with Evers's widow, Myrlie, the newly elected chairperson of the NAACP, to bring about Beckwith's third trial Fortunately this is a story with a just ending. In February 1994, Beckwith was convicted of Evers's murder. It took a racially mixed jury less than 7 hours to reach its verdict. (Little Brown, $24.95)"

From Our Partners