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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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Foreword by Hank Klibanoff

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FOREWORD

Hank Klibanoff

We have this problem in much of the rural South: Scores, hundreds, perhaps thousands of Black people who came out of the backwoods, who left farms and hard-scrabble lives, and who succeeded in leaving a national imprint have little acknowledgment or presence today in the communities that nurtured and launched them. These are men and women whose towering achievements are memorialized on signs, plaques and portraits far away from their native homes, but who are no longer known, remembered or celebrated where they lived, walked, played and prayed as children.

Buena Vista, Georgia, produced Josh Gibson, born in 1911, who regularly ranks as perhaps the best Negro Baseball Leagues player of all time. Known as the “Black Babe Ruth,” Gibson was the second Black, behind Satchel Paige, to be inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown. He’s even on a postage stamp. But there is no official, public commemoration of his importance in that town, which has doubled in population to 2,000 since Jackson and Gibson’s childhoods.

Same goes for another son of Buena Vista: One of the premier journalists of the civil rights era in the South, Emory Overton Jackson, the fearless, indefatigable and conflicted editor of the Birmingham World, the largest black newspaper in Alabama. He was born in the town due south of Atlanta in 1908, three years before Gibson. ← xi | xii →

Jackson joined the World in 1934...

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