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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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Preface: Alabama Has Lost a Giant

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PREFACE

Alabama Has Lost a Giant

Rosa Parks sat down in her Detroit home on September 16, 1975, and wrote a sympathy note to the family of Emory Overton Jackson. “I think of him as one of the great men of our time; as one dedicated to freedom and equality of all oppressed peoples. Much of my inspiration came from knowing and working with him … before it was popular to speak out against injustice.” That day in Birmingham, Alabama, hundreds of people from across the country gathered at Sixth Avenue Baptist Church to pay their last respects to the managing editor of the Birmingham World, who had succumbed to prostate cancer a week earlier at the age of 67.1

Benjamin Mays, president emeritus of Morehouse College in Atlanta, delivered the eulogy. Jackson stood tall, he said, and was unafraid to speak the truth and take a stand in the fight against discrimination and segregation. He was a leader in the community before Fred Shuttlesworth, founder of the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, and Martin Luther King Jr. took charge of the civil-rights movement in Birmingham. Jackson, said Mays, had his own dream that one day Black people would be free.2

Other speakers, such as Jet associate publisher Robert Johnson, lined up to share stories about Jackson’s influence on their lives and careers. And Jackson’s employer, Atlanta Daily World publisher Cornelius (C. A.) Scott, paid tribute ← xvii | xviii → to...

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