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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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Jackson kept in contact with Autherine Lucy, who married her Miles College sweetheart Hugh Foster, primarily through the Birmingham World. In March 1959, she thanked Jackson for sending issues of the newspaper but said she was saddened to read about the death of his sister Katherine in January. “It surely did grieve me to hear of it because getting to know you and meeting the other members of the Jackson family has caused me to love them,” Foster wrote. She was working then at Mary Allen College in Crockett, Texas, as its librarian. In addition, she told Jackson, she often wrote news releases for the junior college. “It seems that you should have given me a little of the journalism experience [that you gave Pollie Myers]. (smile).”1

Miles College, the historically Black institution in Birmingham, celebrated its 66th Founders’ Day program in March 1971 by conferring a Doctor of Laws degree upon attorney Arthur Shores. It also presented a special citation to Foster, who traveled from her Dallas home for the event. The Birmingham World published a candid photograph of Jackson, wearing a suit and bowtie, chatting with Foster, elegantly dressed in a striped outfit and tall hat. He wrote afterward that the college was remiss in not honoring the 1952 graduate much sooner. He said, too, that the citation was insufficient recognition of Foster’s efforts to integrate the University of Alabama. She was entitled to no less than an honorary degree, he wrote in...

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