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Editor Emory O. Jackson, the Birmingham World, and the Fight for Civil Rights in Alabama, 1940-1975

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Kimberley Mangun

This cultural biography tells the story of Birmingham World editor Emory O. Jackson. During his 35-year career in Alabama, he waged numerous sustained civil-rights campaigns for the franchise, equal educational opportunities, and justice for the victims of police brutality and bombings. The semiweekly newspaper was central to his advocacy. Jackson wrote editorials and columns that documented injustices and urged legislative and legal action in an effort to secure civil rights for Black Alabamians. His body of work, grounded in protest and passion, was part of the long tradition of the Black Press as an instrument to agitate for social and political change. Jackson also was a frequent speaker at NAACP branches, colleges, and churches. He was known as a commanding, even fiery, speaker who stressed first-class citizenship. Issues explored in the book demonstrate an assertion of constitutional rights in post-World War II America and a remarkable resilience. Editor Emory O. Jackson, the Birmingham World, and the Fight for Civil Rights in Alabama, 1940-1975 is the first scholarly analysis of his work and as such contributes to scholarship on the Civil Rights Movement in Alabama and the nation.

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Chapter 4. We Demand Equal Education

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WE DEMAND EQUAL EDUCATION

Governor James Folsom was late to the ball held in his honor on January 17, 1955. But there was no missing the man when he arrived at the gymnasium of Alabama State College with his family in tow. At 6 feet 8 inches tall, “Big Jim” stood head and shoulders above most of the people who were packed into the building for the Negro inaugural ball. Folsom engaged in small talk and then focused on education. “It is my desire for you to have a university,” he told the crowd of about 2,500, as well as a law school and a school of medicine. Did revelers cheer? Or were they silent, knowing that segregated University of Alabama already offered such programs for its White students?1

Exactly eight months earlier, on May 17, 1954, the US Supreme Court handed down its unanimous opinion in Brown v. Board of Education. Black newspapers across the country celebrated the ruling with bold, banner headlines and editorials that expressed appreciation to the justices and gratitude to Thurgood Marshall and his team of dedicated attorneys. The Birmingham World announced in two lines on its May 18 front page: segregation in public schools outlawed by u.s. supreme court. Separate was not equal, the court stated. And with that declaration, the high court dismantled Plessy v. Ferguson, which had held since 1896 that states had the power to pass legislation that kept...

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