Peace Corps Receives 2005 Medgar Evers Award

August 10, 2005

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 10, 2005 Honoring the agencys commitment to humanitarian work, the Peace Corps received the Walker County, Ala., Honorary Committees 2005 Medgar Evers Politics and Peace Award Monday.

Pastor David Lewis, chairman of the Honorary Committee, presented the award to the Peace Corps, which was accepted by Deputy Director Jody Olsen on behalf of the agency at Peace Corps headquarters. This is the first time that a federal agency has received the Medgar Evers Award. The award recognizes the Peace Corps for promoting humanitarian efforts among people of all races.

"Receiving this award is an honor and says a lot about who we are as an agency," said Deputy Director Olsen at the event.

Pastor David Lewis presents the 2005 Medgar Evers Award to Deputy Director Jody Olsen.
Pastor David Lewis presents the 2005 Medgar Evers Award to Deputy Director Jody Olsen.
A black substitute school teacher, Wilda McFarly of Burnwell, Ala., established the award in 1963 to memorialize Evers, who was murdered by a white supremacist outside of his home in Mississippi the same year. His death outraged the nation and brought new attention to civil rights.

Lewis, who serves as a pastor at two Baptist churches in Dora, Ala., said the Medgar Evers award was born out of racism in the South and honors persons and organizations of all races that have made a valuable contribution to the betterment of their community or the global community.

Evers served as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples (NAACP) first field secretary in Mississippi. As a field secretary, Evers organized voter registration drives and encouraged economic boycotts against businesses that practiced discrimination. Evers was also instrumental in desegregating the University of Mississippi, which, because of the NAACPs efforts, was forced to admit African-American students in 1962.

The assassination of Evers prompted President John F. Kennedy, founder of the Peace Corps, to ask Congress for a comprehensive civil rights bill. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed this bill into law in 1964.

Since 1961, more than 178,000 volunteers have served in the Peace Corps, working in such diverse fields as education, health, HIV/AIDS education and prevention, information technology, business development, the environment, and agriculture. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment.

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