OXFORD, Mississippi — Myrlie Evers-Williams moves gingerly about the crowd, slowed by her 80-year-old knees. The University of Mississippi chancellor, who has invited her to speak at commencement exercises, takes her hand to lead her down a flight of stairs. Students, black and white, ask to pose for a photo with her as she makes her way to the stage. Her daughter, always nearby, is holding her purse. She is doted on.
Evers-Williams is here, she knows, as a stand-in for an era. What her name evokes in Mississippi — 50 years after her husband, Medgar, was gunned down in their driveway by an avowed racist — is a vivid image of the worst of Southern terrorism. And on the campus of Ole Miss, where she and Medgar fought for integration, she is here on this May morning as part of an ongoing dance of racial reconciliation.