“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” – William Faulkner
Earnest McEwen Jr.’s story is one of pain and triumph. Institutional repentance and ultimate redemption. A historical aberration and life-changing experience that should resonate with each of us.
After all, his is the story of an American dream – one initially stolen from a young Black man. It would only be rectified posthumously. Yet it is one that must give us hope in perseverance. In family. In accomplishment. In fight. And in healing.
McEwen received an honorary doctorate on Saturday from Alcorn State University – a degree he didn’t earn academically but one he richly deserved. It took 65 long years for him to be recognized by the university that once shunned him.
Ousted for advocating for Black people
Allow me take you back to Lorman, Mississippi, in the 1950s. A time when Black women and men were fighting for rights and equality. A time where, in the South, those same Black folks were being rejected as human beings and hated for having the audacity to exist. At best, they were spit upon. At worst, they were lynched.
McEwen was student council president at Alcorn, then known as Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College. The school was established for African Americans – the first Black land-grant institution to receive federal funding under the Morrill Act of 1862.
Medgar Evers, who served as the first Mississippi NAACP field secretary, would become one of Alcorn’s most notable alumni. Evers – who fought against Jim Crow laws, protested segregation in education and launched an investigation into the lynching of Emmett Till – was assassinated in 1963 by a white supremacist outside his home in Jackson.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Suzette Hackney