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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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Postscript

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Bull Connor’s name became synonymous with police brutality in Birmingham.

The one-time telegraph operator and sports-radio announcer was elected commissioner of public safety in 1937. Four years later, the Birmingham Branch of the NAACP received its initial Thalheimer Award, the highest honor the NAACP bestows upon branches, for its “organized action” in trying to reduce police brutality. Richard Arrington, the city’s first Black mayor, said “Connor and his police force were just terrible—people were frightened of him.” But Jackson “acted like he had no fear.” He confronted Connor at a time when no other Black person dared to do so and regularly wrote in the World about the violence of the “nightmare years.” Jackson, Arrington added, was a “courageous man.”1

Police brutality worsened after World War II. Returning veterans sought the franchise, housing, employment and educational opportunities, and civil rights. By 1948, Jackson was keeping detailed records of officer-involved violence. In one World editorial, he recounted three fatal shootings allegedly committed by police in Birmingham and surrounding communities during the previous three weeks alone. “Negro citizens are human beings deserving the protection of the law,” he wrote. After the fourth shooting Jackson said, “Without letup Birmingham police continue to slay Negro citizens.”2 ← 205 | 206 →

Jackson kept notes on the victims and reported statistics he gathered between 1948 and 1951 to organizations such as the Southern Conference Educational Fund, an important advocate of integration and civil rights in the South....

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