Campus News

MSNBC host Joy-Ann Reid visits Medgar Evers College as she campaigns to bring more awareness to school’s namesake

Joy Reid

The day after author Joy-Ann Reid released her book Medgar and Myrlie: Medgar Evers and the Love Story That Awakened America, the MSNBC host of The ReidOut made a side trip to our Central Brooklyn campus on her way to a book signing in Philadelphia.

It was a nod to the school’s namesake and a chance for her to connect with the young people attending the school and from the surrounding community who are being inspired by the work of the late civil rights icon.

Joy Reid engages students

Reid and her crew not only crossed paths with a group of local high school students partaking in a recruitment tour, but also popped into a class to quiz undergraduates about their knowledge of Medgar Wylie Evers. And while the responses showed some awareness of the Mississippi native, there were some non-responses that pointed to one of the reasons Reid was inspired to write her book — to bolster awareness of this Civil Rights trailblazer and have him mentioned in the same breath as peers Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“These young people at the college clearly know him, but in general, most people don’t know who he is,” Reid told us. “[These Civil Rights leaders] all had connections including Malcolm and Martin, which people wanted to pretend wasn’t real. Everyone thinks these people were rivals, but they were all working towards the same goal.”


But primary inspiration for Reid penning Medgar and Myrlie was sharing the story of the deep love and respect the book’s subjects had for each other, particularly while raising three children at a time when their home state was considered one of the most dangerous in the country, particularly for Black people demanding freedom and equality. Reid picked up the thread of that relationship when she flew out to California to do her show back in 2018 and invited Myrlie Evers-Williams on as a guest.

“I just fell in love with her — how can you not?,” the Brooklyn native recalled. “She’s just an amazing person. I got into this conversation with her after the segment. She talked about [Medgar] as being the love of her life and almost in the present tense. I said, ‘Miss Myrlie, you sound like a giggly schoolgirl who just met this man and he’s gone for almost 60 years.’ I told her she needed to talk more about this aspect of it because I think what happens is when you think about the Civil Rights Movement, you put these men on pedestals and they’re marble statues and not people. But she was talking about him as a person. I wanted to write about that relationship and that love that allowed Medgar Evers to do that work he did. And allowed Myrlie to do the work she did.”

Joy Reid embraces student

Reid reached out to a mutual acquaintance who knew Evers’ grandson Ben, who put her in contact with his grandmother. And while Evers-Williams and her team were initially unsure they wanted to revisit the subject given the fact that the former wrote two memoirs about her experiences, Reid gained their trust given her angle. A visit to the Evers home in Jackson, MS, (which is now a National Historic Landmark), also found Reid interviewing childhood friends of the Evers kids, giving further insight into Medgar Evers the man.

“A lot of those families still live on that block and we talked to the people that were the buddies of Reena, Darrell and Dan who played with them on the block,” Reid said. “The sweet kids, as we called them, who lived down the street said that when that assassination happened, it was an assassination of all of us. It was an assassination of their safety, which was hard to even have in Mississippi. It was an assassination of the community because as they said, Mr. Medgar was the fun dad on the block. He’d throw a football around with the boys, go out there and play with them, take them fishing and through the drive-thru. That was him.”

Group photo with Joy Reid, Provost Antoinette Coleman, SVP Kane and others

As for what Reid wants readers to take away from her book, the first takeaway is that courage is needed in a time of peril, which she freely admits we’re living in fueled by quite a bit of political cowardice. The second is how love has propelled this fight for social justice.

“The source of courage is love because if you love something, you’ll fight for it,” she said. “If your loved one is in a fire, you’re going to run in and try to get them out of the fire. If you love your children, you’re going to do anything you can to save them. Love is the source of courage. If you have that love, then you can find the courage.”


Book cover for Medgar & Myrlie


MEDGAR AND MYRLIE: Medgar Evers and the Love Story That Awakened America

Mariner Books | On Sale: 2/6/24

Hardcover | ISBN: 9780063068797 | $30

Also available in E-Book and Digital Audio (read by the author)



For more on Joy-Ann Reid’s coast-to-coast book tour, please visit her webpage for more information.