Former NAACP Chairwoman Myrlie Evers-Williams has donated her archival collection to her alma mater, Pomona College, the university has announced.
Evers-Williams, 89, a leader of the civil rights movement, became nationally known after her husband, NAACP official Medgar Evers, was killed in the driveway of their Mississippi home by a white supremacist in 1963.
After her husband’s death, Evers-Williams moved to Claremont and enrolled at Pomona College, where she graduated with a sociology degree in 1968.
Evers-Williams would become a trailblazer for Black women. She made a run for a Congressional seat in the San Gabriel Valley, helped launch the National Women’s Political Caucus, held civic roles in Los Angeles and was elected chair of the NAACP in 1995.
She also became the first woman and first layperson to give the invocation at President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2012.
“I’m thankful for my life, including all of the hardships,” Evers-Williams said in a statement. “I have learned so much. I have learned tolerance. I have learned love, genuine love of people. I have learned how to get knocked down and get back up without blaming anyone.”
The donated archival collection focuses on her life after moving to California in 1964.
It includes campaign materials, congressional transcripts, photos of her with presidents such as Kennedy, Carter and Clinton and other personal items such as her Pomona College ID card and the dress she wore while performing piano at Carnegie Hall.
“Mrs. Evers-Williams has led in so many ways through her persistence, faith and unshakeable commitment to the cause,” Pomona College President G. Gabrielle Starr said in a statement.
Evers-Williams, who turns 90 next month, is now retired and lives in Southern California. In 2022, she was portrayed by actress Jayme Lawson in the movie, “Till,” based on the life and death of 14-year-old Emmett Till, who was lynched in 1955.
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Pomona College will honor Evers-Williams with a public celebration of her accomplishments and the gift of her archival collection on March 22 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the university’s Bridges Auditorium, 450 N. College Way. Tickets must be reserved in advance.
The university will preserve the archival collection for academic and, in time, public access through The Claremont Colleges Library.
Starr hopes to see K-12 students use the collection in coming years to draw inspiration from the civil rights icon with long ties in the region.
“The College will tend to this collection to educate and encourage others to push forward on the path she did so much to create,” Starr said. “We are honored to be entrusted with her extraordinary legacy of brilliance, strength and — yes — love.”