Only A Pawn In Their Game

Bob Dylan
Language: English

List of versions

Related Songs

Draft Dodger Rag
(Phil Ochs)
Poor Old Dirt Farmer
(Levon Helm)
Song for a Dark Girl
(Langston Hughes)

Lyrics and Music by Bob Dylan
Testo e musica di Bob Dylan
Album: "The times they are a-changin'"

Il 12 giugno 1963, nel Mississipi venne assassinato Medgar Evers, attivista dei diritti civili, uno dei tanti omicidi perpetrati dai “difensori” della supremazia della razza bianca contro l’integrazione degli afroamericani nella società statunitense. L’episodio è stato anche narrato nel 1996 nel film: “L’agguato” (titolo originale: “Ghosts of Mississipi”), per la regia di Rob Reiner. Presentiamo qui sotto il completissimo articolo su Medgar Evers tratto da en.wikipedia:

Medgar Evers, 1925-1963.
Medgar Evers, 1925-1963.
Medgar Willy Evers (July 2, 1925 – June 12, 1963) was an African American civil rights activist from Mississippi who was murdered by Byron De La Beckwith, a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Medgar Evers was born on July 2, 1925 in Decatur, Mississippi. In 1943, Evers, then 17, dropped out of high school to enlist in the army with his older brother Charlie. Evers fought in the European Theatre of WWII and was honorably discharged in 1945 as a Sergeant. In 1946, having returned to his hometown, Evers, along with his brother and four friends, registered to vote in a local election. On voting day, however, local white citizens used intimidation to prevent Evers and the others from casting their votes. He recounts this moment in his autobiography:

"When we got to the courthouse, the clerk said he wanted to talk with us. When we got into his office, some 15 or 20 armed white men surged in behind us, men I had grown up with, had played with. We split up and went home. Around town, Negroes said we had been whipped, beaten up and run out of town. Well, in a way we were whipped, I guess, but I made up my mind then that it would not be like that again—at least not for me. I was committed, in a way, to change things."

In 1948, Evers enrolled at Alcorn State University, majoring in business administration. In college he was on the debate team, played football and ran track, sang in the school choir and served as president of his junior class.

He married classmate Myrlie Beasley on December 24, 1951, and completed work on his degree the following year. The couple moved to Mound Bayou, MS, where T.R.M. Howard had hired him to sell insurance for his Magnolia Mutual Life Insurance Company. Howard was also the president of the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL), a civil rights and pro self-help organization. Involvement in the RCNL gave Evers crucial training in activism. He helped to organize the RCNL's boycott of service stations that denied blacks use of their restrooms. The boycotters distributed bumper stickers with the slogan "Don't Buy Gas Where You Can't Use the Restroom." Along with his brother, Charles Evers, he also attended the RCNL's annual conferences in Mound Bayou between 1952 and 1954 which drew crowds of ten thousand or more.

Evers applied to the then-segregated University of Mississippi Law School in February 1954. When his application was rejected, Evers became the focus of an NAACP campaign to desegregate the school, a case aided by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Board of Education 347 U.S. 483 that segregation was unconstitutional.

He was involved in a boycott campaign against white merchants and was instrumental in eventually desegregating the University of Mississippi when that institution was finally forced to enroll James Meredith in 1962.

eversgraveIn the weeks leading up to his death, Evers found himself the target of a number of threats. His public investigations into the murder of Emmett Till and his vocal support of Clyde Kennard made him a prominent black leader and therefore vulnerable to attack. On May 28, 1963, a molotov cocktail was thrown into the carport of his home. Five days before his death, Evers was nearly run down by a car after he emerged from the Jackson NAACP office. Civil rights demonstrations accelerated in Jackson during the first week of June 1963. A local television station granted Evers time for a short speech, his first in Mississippi, where he outlined the goals of the Jackson movement. Following the speech, threats on Evers' life increased.

On June 12, 1963, Evers pulled into his driveway after just returning from a meeting with NAACP lawyers. Emerging from his car and carrying NAACP T-shirts that read "Jim Crow Must Go," Evers was struck in the back with a bullet fired from an Enfield 1917.303 rifle that ricocheted into his home. He staggered 30 feet before collapsing. He died at a local hospital 50 minutes later. Evers was murdered just hours after President John F. Kennedy's speech on national television in support of civil rights.

Mourned nationally, Evers was buried on June 19 in Arlington National Cemetery, where he received full military honors in front of a crowd of more than three thousand people. It was the largest funeral at Arlington since the interment of John Foster Dulles, former U.S. Secretary of State in 1959. The past chairman of the American Veterans' Committee, Mickey Levine, said at the services, "No soldier in this field has fought more courageously, more heroically than Medgar Evers."

On June 23, 1964, Byron De La Beckwith, a fertilizer salesman and member of the White Citizens' Council and Ku Klux Klan, was arrested for Evers' murder. During the course of his first trial in 1964, De La Beckwith was visited by former Mississippi governor Ross Barnett and one time Army Major General Edwin A. Walker.

All-white juries twice that year deadlocked on De La Beckwith's guilt.

The murder and subsequent trials caused an uproar. Musician Bob Dylan wrote his 1963 song "Only a Pawn in Their Game" about Evers and his assassination. The song's lyrics included: "Today, Medgar Evers was buried from the bullet he caught/They lowered him down as a king." Nina Simone took up the topic in her song "Mississippi Goddam". Phil Ochs wrote the songs "The Ballad of Medgar Evers" and "Another Country" in response to the killing. Matthew Jones and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee Freedom Singers paid tribute to Evers in the haunting "Ballad of Medgar Evers." Eudora Welty's short story "Where is the Voice Coming From," in which the speaker is the imagined assassin of Medgar Evers, was published in The New Yorker.

In 1965, Jackson C. Frank included the lyrics "But there aren't words to bring back Evers" in his tribute to the Civil Rights Movement, "Don't Look Back," found on his only, self-titled, album. Malvina Reynolds mentioned "the shot in Evers' back" in her song "It Isn't Nice". More recently, rapper Immortal Technique asks if a diamond is "worth the blood of Malcolm and Medgar Evers?" in the song "Crossing the Boundary". The Rza sang on "I Can't Go to Sleep" by Wu-Tang Clan, "Medgar took one to the back for integrating college."

In 1994, thirty years after the two previous trials had failed to reach a verdict, Beckwith was again brought to trial based on new evidence, and Bobby DeLaughter took on the job as the attorney. During the trial, the body of Evers was exhumed from his grave for autopsy, and found to be in a surprisingly good state of preservation as a result of embalming. Beckwith was convicted of murder on February 5, 1994, after having lived as a free man for the three decades following the killing. Beckwith appealed unsuccessfully, and died in prison in January 2001.

Evers' legacy has been kept alive in a variety of ways. Minrose Gwin notes that after his death, Medgar Evers was memorialized by the authors Eudora Welty, James Baldwin, Margaret Walker and Anne Moody. In 1970, Medgar Evers College was established in Brooklyn, New York as part of the City University of New York. In 1983, a made-for-television movie, For Us the Living: The Medgar Evers Story starring Howard Rollins Jr. was aired, celebrating the life and career of Medgar Evers. On June 28, 1992, the city of Jackson, MS erected a statue in honor of Evers. All of Delta Drive (part of U.S. Highway 49) in Jackson was renamed in Evers' honor. In December 2004, the Jackson City Council changed the name of the city's airport to Jackson-Evers International Airport in honor of Evers.rainbow

The 1996 film Ghosts of Mississippi directed by Rob Reiner tells the story of the 1994 retrial of Beckwith, in which prosecutor Robert DeLaughter of the District Attorney's office secured a conviction. Beckwith and DeLaughter were played by James Woods and Alec Baldwin, respectively; Whoopi Goldberg played Myrlie Evers.

Evers' widow, Myrlie, became a noted activist in her own right later in life, eventually serving as chair of the NAACP. Medgar's brother Charles returned to Jackson in July 1963 and served briefly in his slain brother's place. Charles Evers remained involved in Mississippi Civil Rights for years to come. He resides in Jackson.

Early in 2007, comedian Chris Rock appeared as a guest on Real Time with Bill Maher. Regarding a recent incident in which comedian Michael Richards had repeatedly called an African American man in the audience "nigger" during a performance, Bill Maher asked Chris Rock if Rock considered Richards racist. Rock responded "He stood up for two minutes and shouted 'nigger'! What do you have to do? Shoot Medgar Evers?"

Canzoni su, o con riferimenti a, Medgar Evers
Songs on, or referring to, Medgar Evers

A bullet from the back of a bush took Medgar Evers' blood.
A finger fired the trigger to his name.
A handle hid out in the dark
A hand set the spark
Two eyes took the aim
Behind a man's brain
But he can't be blamed
He's only a pawn in their game.
A South politician preaches to the poor white man,
"You got more than the blacks, don't complain.
You're better than them, you been born with white skin," they explain.
And the Negro's name
Is used it is plain
For the politician's gain
As he rises to fame
And the poor white remains
On the caboose of the train
But it ain't him to blame
He's only a pawn in their game.
The deputy sheriffs, the soldiers, the governors get paid,
And the marshals and cops get the same,
But the poor white man's used in the hands of them all like a tool.
He's taught in his school
From the start by the rule
That the laws are with him
To protect his white skin
To keep up his hate
So he never thinks straight
'Bout the shape that he's in
But it ain't him to blame
He's only a pawn in their game.
From the poverty shacks, he looks from the cracks to the tracks,
And the hoof beats pound in his brain.
And he's taught how to walk in a pack
Shoot in the back
With his fist in a clinch
To hang and to lynch
To hide 'neath the hood
To kill with no pain
Like a dog on a chain
He ain't got no name
But it ain't him to blame
He's only a pawn in their game.
Today, Medgar Evers was buried from the bullet he caught.
They lowered him down as a king.
But when the shadowy sun sets on the one
That fired the gun
He'll see by his grave
On the stone that remains
Carved next to his name
His epitaph plain:
Only a pawn in their game.

Contributed by i fermentivivi - 2005/3/29 - 12:46

Language: Italian

Versione italiana fornita dai "Fermentivivi":

Una pallottola da dietro un cespuglio
prese il sangue di Medgar Evers.
Un dito azionò il grilletto verso di lui.
Un calcio di pistola sparì nel buio.
Una mano fece scoppiare la scintilla.
Due occhi presero la mira
dietro la mente di un uomo,
ma non può essere incolpato:
è solo una pedina nel loro gioco.
Un politicante "del sud predica
al povero uomo bianco:
"Tu hai più dei negri,
non ti lamentare.
Sei migliore di loro,
sei nato con la pelle bianca" loro spiegano.
Ed il nome del negro
è usato, è ovvio,
per il guadagno del politicante
per la sua scalata al potere
ed il povero bianco rimane
sull'ultimo vagone del treno,
ma non può essere incolpato:
è solo una pedina nel loro gioco.
Gli sceriffi, i soldati, i governatori
sono pagati,
e così i marshalls ed i poliziotti,
ma il povero uomo bianco è usato
nelle mani di tutti loro come uno strumento.
gli viene insegnato a scuola
sin dall'inizio come una regola
che le leggi sono con lui
per proteggere la sua pelle bianca,
per tenere alto il suo odio,
così che non la pensi mai in modo giusto
circa la condizione in cui si trova,
ma non è lui da incolpare:
è solo una pedina nel loro gioco.
Dalla misera capanna, lui guarda dalla
crepa verso il viottolo,
ed il rumore degli zoccoli gli martella il cervello.
E gli viene insegnato come far parte di un branco
a sparare alla schiena.
Con i pugni stretti.
Ad impiccare e linciare.
A nascondersi sotto il cappuccio,
per uccidere senza dolore,
come un cane alla catena.
Non ha alcun nome,
ma non è da incolpare:
è solo una pedina nel loro gioco.
Oggi, Medgar Evers è stato sotterrato
per il proiettile che ricevette.
Lo hanno calato giù come un re,
ma quando il sole opaco tramonterà su colui
che sparò con quell'arma,
lui vedrà sulla sua tomba,
sulla pietra che rimane,
scolpito vicino al suo nome,
il suo semplice epitaffio:
solo una pedina nel loro gioco

Contributed by i fermentivivi - 2005/3/29 - 12:46

Language: Italian

Versione italiana / Italian version / Version italienne / Italiankielinen versio: Gianni Barnini

Un colpo da dietro un cespuglio colpì Medgar Evers
Un dito azionò quel grilletto
qualcosa sgusciò come anguilla partì la scintilla
due occhi per mirare un uomo a pensare
non lo puoi incolpare è solo un oggetto da usare

Un politicante predica ai poveri bianchi
Siete più ricchi dei negri
Siete migliori di loro voi siete nel coro
Così fa carriera e può guadagnare
E al povero appare un uomo da amare
non lo puoi incolpare è solo un oggetto da usare

Sceriffi e governatori son tutti pagati
Ma il povero bianco non vale
E’ una pedina da poco per il loro gioco
Deve imparare dalla scuola elementare
A non contestare ma soltanto odiare
non lo puoi incolpare è solo un oggetto da usare

Dalla sua misera casa lui guarda il sentiero
Tutto lì intorno è un tormento
Gli hanno inculcato che è bianco fa parte del branco
Deve sparare senza pensare
Può impiccare senza farsi notare
non lo puoi incolpare è solo un oggetto da usare

Oggi quel povero negro è stato sepolto
Lo hanno colpito alle spalle
E’ stato calato alle tre come lui fosse un re
Ma poi il criminale alla fine potrà osservare
Che han voluto chiosare un motto da ricordare
non è da incolpare è stato un oggetto da usare
E' una cover metrica.

Contributed by Gianni Barnini - 2021/1/16 - 17:43

Language: Portuguese

versione portoghese da

Uma bala por detrás dos arbustos
tirou o sangue de Medgar Evers
Um dedo puxou o gatilho a seu nome
Um encosto escondeu no escuro
Uma mão deu a faísca
Dois olhos fizeram mira
Atrás, o cérebro de um homem
Mas ele não pode ser culpado
Ele é apenas um peão em seu jogo.

Um político do sul prega para o pobre homem branco
"Você tem mais do que os negros, não reclame
Você é melhor do que eles,
você nasceu com pele branca." ele explicou
E o nome Negro
É usado obviamente
Para o lucro do político
Enquanto ele sobe em fama
E o pobre branco permanece
No vagão do trem
Mas não é ele a se culpar
Ele é apenas um peão em seu jogo.

O deputado, o xerife, os soldados
Os governadores são pagos
E os delegados e policiais recebem o mesmo
Mas o pobre homem branco é usado
Nas mãos de todos estes como uma ferramenta
Ele está preso em sua educação
Desde o inicio pela regra
Que a lei está com ele
Para proteger sua pele branca
Manter o seu ódio
Para que nunca pense direito
No estado que ele está
Mas não é ele a culpar
Ele é apenas um peão em seu jogo.

Dos barracos da pobreza
Ele enxerga pelas frestas os trilhos
E a batida das patas ecoam na sua mente
E ele é ensinado como andar em grupo
Atirar pelas costas
Com seu punho cerrado
Enforcar em um linchamento
Se esconder atrás de uma capa
Matar sem dó
Como um cachorro na corrente
Ele não tem nome
Mas ele não é de se culpar
Ele é apenas um peão em seu jogo.

Hoje Medgar Evars foi enterrado
Pela bala que o pegou
Eles o abaixaram como um rei
Mas quando as sombras do sol que se põem sobre aquele
Que atirou a pistola
Ele verá sua cova
Na pedra que permanece
Talhado ao lado de seu nome
O epitáfio explicando:
Apenas um peão em seu jogo.

Contributed by Marcia Rosati - 2007/11/8 - 19:03

Traduzione attinente, grazie fermentivivi.....

GIPO - 2008/8/20 - 01:16

Main Page

Please report any error in lyrics or commentaries to

Note for non-Italian users: Sorry, though the interface of this website is translated into English, most commentaries and biographies are in Italian and/or in other languages like French, German, Spanish, Russian etc.

hosted by