NEW YORK, NY -- The National Council of Churches USA received the 41-year Medgar W. Evers Award for Religion and Education, for its ongoing effort to better the society with the hands of the church, on April 5, 2004.
The historical award was established in 1963 to memorialize Evers, an early civil rights leader who was murdered by a white segregationist on June 12, 1963. That same year, the NAACP posthumously awarded Medgar Wiley Evers the Spingarn Medal, its prestigious award given annually since 1915 to outstanding African American leaders and achievers in all walks of life. Evers’ murder sparked protests across the south that eventually led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964.
“At that time, most whites didn’t recognize what blacks were doing,” said the Rev. David Lewis, chair of the Memorial Committee. “The award honors persons and organizations of all races who have made a valuable contribution to the good of humanity and the betterment of the community.”
The National Council of Churches, the largest ecumenical body in America, has long since been committed to social efforts in overcoming poverty, nuclear disarmament, fair wages for U.S. farm workers, civil rights, AIDS/HIV effort, human rights and interfaith relations.
“We chose the NCC because it’s been very supportive of civil rights and education,” said the Rev. Lewis, Associate Pastor of St. John Baptist Missionary Baptist Church, and a national public speaker. “Living together and caring for one another is something all of us ought to understand.”
Rev. Lewis, who presented the award to the NCC’s general secretary Robert W. Edgar at the NCC’s office in New York, said t the NCC was chosen from among 100 individual and organizational names. The NCC is the first religious organization to receive the honor.
The award which comes in two plaques, reads, ‘You have given valuable contributions to the ‘God of Humanity,’” the citation reads. “We hope you will continue lifting the veil of ignorance. Every step of progress in the world has been made by dedicated people.”