The Medgar Evers error in The Help’s first edition

Posted on April 9, 2011

5


They are scared, looking at the back door every ten minutes, afraid they’ll get caught talking to me. Afraid they’ll be beaten like Louvenia’s grandson, or, hell, bludgeoned in their front yard like Medgar Evers.  ——Skeeter Pg 277 *

 

** Update ** I purchased my hard copy book in 2009. In July 2010 I noted on this blog about the error on Page 277. In Oct 2010 a UK reader confirmed the error was in her book also.

 

Medgar Evers error on Pg 277 of the hard cover edition

 

 

Error on Evers in the Paperback version of The Help

 

 

The latest editions (ebook) do not have the error I’m told. Read my post on the covert correction made by the publisher, without mention or even an apology here:

https://acriticalreviewofthehelp.wordpress.com/2011/09/24/publisher-corrects-medgar-evers-error/

 

 

 

When I first read that erroneous line in the novel, I thought it was just another flub by Skeeter, since she seemed to be quite the detached college grad (even though she’d graduated with a journalism degree from Ole Miss) who had no desire to grasp the historic events taking hold of her city. As the main protagonist of the novel, Skeeter appeared to be firmly set on what literary idea she could use to get out of her hometown, and it didn’t include joining in with any civil rights activities.

 

After all, Harper & Row Editor Elaine Stein had to remind her:

“Miss Phelan . . . this Negro actually agreed to talk to you candidly? About working for a white family? Because that seems like a hell of a risk in a place like Jackson, Mississippi . . . I watched them try to integrate your bus station on the news,” Missus Stein continued. “They jammed fifty-five Negroes in a jail cell built for four.” (Pg 106)

 

And Skeeter thinks: The truth was, I had very little idea how dangerous things were. I’d spent the past four years locked away in the padded room of college, reading Keats and Eudora Welty and worrying over term papers. (Pg 107)

 

It’s important to note that before Skeeter graduated, James Meredith was attempting to integrate Ole Miss. Arichived records at Ole Miss show the student newsletter called The Rebel Underground knew of Meredith’s 1961 effort to enroll and devoted several articles intent on demeaning the man.

 

His successful enrollment in the fall of 1962 caused outspoken segregationist, Governor Ross Barnett as well as many average citizens of Mississippi to blame then president John F. Kennedy for sending in the National Guard and the subsequent riot by white students.

 

Yet somehow, Stockett would have readers believe journalism major Skeeter Phelan didn’t have time to dwell on it, even though she was the editor of the student newspaper, the fictional Rebel Rouser.

James Meredith stopped at the steps of Ole Miss

 

Besides that, I figured it must have slipped by in the editing of the novel. After all, Stockett did create this emotional scene:

“Sit down,” Minny say. I set in a wooden chair. They all ghost faced, staring at the radio. It’s about half the side of a car engine, wood, four knobs on it. Even Kindra quiet in Sugar’s lap. . .

“I was just informed,” the announcer say, panting, “that Medgar Evers is dead.”

Oh. Law.

Minny turn to Leroy Junior. Her voice low, steady,“Take your brothers and sisters in the bedroom. Get in bed. And stay back there.” It always sound scarier when a hollerer talk soft. . .

Minny’s hands is in fists. She gritting her teeth. “Shot him right in front of his children, Aibileen.”

“We gone pray for the Everses, we gone pray for Myrlie . . .” but it just sound so empty, so I stop.

“Radio say his family run out the house when they heard the shots. Say he bloody, stumbling around, all the kids with blood all over em . . .” She slap her hand on the table, rattling the wood radio. (Pg 195)

 

Statue in remembrance of civil rights icon Medgar Evers

 

 

 

Famous Quote by Medgar Evers:
“We fought during the war for America, Mississippi included. Now, after the Germans and Japanese hadn’t killed us, it looked as though the white Mississippians would.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So it was a shock to hear what Stockett said in this  interview:

 Excerpt:

http://covertocover.podbean.com/2009/04/26/kathryn-stockett-the-help/

 

“…that summer Medgar Evers, who was the field secretary for the NAACP was bludgeoned to death on his front steps. His children actually came outside and were covered in blood and he died in the hospital that night.” (5:51 minutes into the 29 minute interview)

 

 

In case anyone thinks this is just a bad case of a brain cramp, there’s also this audio interview:

 

“…1963 was a horrifying and momentous year in Mississippi’s history as well as the entire United States. It was… the fall of 62 when James Meredith was accepted into Ole Miss and in 1963 Medgar Evers the uh…who was with the NAACP, he was bludgeoned to death on his front yard in front of his children.”  (stated at 8:34 minutes into a 10:31 interview)   
Updated Link: http://downloads.feedroom.com/podcasts/t_assets/20090727/Kathryn_Stockett_REX_MP3_40WA.mp3

 

 

And I present yet a third audio interview, where Stockett repeats her belief that Medgar Evers was bludgeoned:

 

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/speakingvolumes/2009/05/26/interview-with-kathryn-stockett

 

Excerpt:

“. . .Shortly following Medgar Evers the field secretary for the NAACP was bludgeoned to death on his front steps,”

(4:21 minutes into a 18:31 interview)

 

Medgar Evers (AP Photo/Francis H. Mitchell – Ebony Collection, File)

 

So how is it the same author who wrote: “KKK shot him. Front a his house. A hour ago.” Minny speaking to Aibileen Page 194 would state that Medgar Evers, a civil rights icon was “bludgeoned”. Especially an author who was from Jackson, Mississippi.

And who stated she meticulously researched old newspapers, like the Clarion-Ledger for information on the cultural norms and events during the early sixties, how did Stockett get it so . . . wrong? (my example is from the Jackson Daily News. Click on the picture for a larger  image:

 

 

Death of Medgar Evers covered by the Jackson Daily News

The Rifle on the Front Page

Even one of the many search engines  on the web would have Medgar Evers biography online, and information on how he died.

In her acknowledgments section Stockett lists the editor and copy editors who worked on her book. She also thanks the copy editors for pointing out her stubborn discrepancies and with helping her repair others.

For the author to then do interviews repeating that Evers was bludgeoned, makes me think she actually believed he had been.

Because Skeeter’s passageor, hell, bludgeoned in their front yard like Medgar Evers” didn’t just come out of the blue.

Saying Evers was “bludgeoned” would be like saying President John F. Kennedy wasn’t shot,  but  “bludgeoned”.

The sixties in America was a violent decade. In addition to the shooting deaths of Medgar Evers and President John F. Kennedy, Senator Robert Kennedy was shot. Malcolm X was assassinated by gunfire. Martin Luther King Jr. was targeted and killed by a high powered weapon.

And yet, the error regarding Evers’ means of death from this best selling novel wasn’t caught. No major reviewer noted the discrepancy. Or maybe they did and just didn’t mention it.

 

I listed it on this blog back in 2010:

https://acriticalreviewofthehelp.wordpress.com/2010/07/25/blunders-kathryn-stockett-made/

 

It’s not lost on me that neither interviewer corrected Stockett. Which is another reason that I think segregation, but more importantly the Civil Rights Movement and those who gave their lives for freedom need to be remembered each year, via a national memoriam, and given the respect they’re due in educational programs around the country. Because Civil Rights history is still American History. 

 

 

 

 

To be continued. . .

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