Voltaire said history is a pack of lies played on the dead. This statement has never been more true when it comes to the many civil rights activists who bravely died for the cause of black people. This is the case when it comes to Jimmie Lee Jackson. He was a civil rights activist in Marion, Alabama, and a deacon at the Baptist church. On February 18, 1965, while participating in a peaceful voting rights march in his city, he was beaten by troopers and shot by Alabama State Trooper James Fowler. Jackson was unarmed and died eight days later in the hospital.
Here is a little-known fact, although this is rarely mentioned, but it was his death that was the inspiration for the Selma to Montgomery march in March 1965. This was a major event in the Civil Rights Movement that helped gain Congressional passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This march was made famous by the state government’s terrorist assault that came to be known as Bloody Sunday. History tells us that the march that lead to the police assault was about voting rights – it was not. It was about the police murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson.
The bill was waiting to be signed, and the shameful disgrace of the police tactics on Bloody Sunday mere sped up the signing as an act to lend a positive effect to the shameful act of terror by the police. It is true that the signing of the voting rights act did open the door to millions of black people being able to vote again in Alabama and across the South. In essence regaining participation as citizens in the political system for the first time since the turn of the 20th century, when they were disenfranchised by state constitutions and discriminatory practices.
Now, this shows the disgraceful actions of what they call justice, in 2007, some 42 years after Jackson’s murder, former Trooper Fowler was indicted in Jackson’s death, and in 2010 he pleaded guilty to manslaughter. He was sentenced to six months in prison.
Jackson was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, who had come with other Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) staff to Selma, Alabama, to help local activists in their voter registration campaign. Jimmie Lee Jackson was a deacon of the St. James Baptist Church in Marion, Alabama, ordained in the summer of 1964. Jackson had tried to register to vote for four years, without success under the discriminatory system maintained by Alabama officials. His desire to vote led to his death at the hands of an Alabama State Trooper.
Now, most think it was Dr. King and his group the organized the march, but that is not true. It was the organized by The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, one of the most important organizations of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, at the helm leading the march. Dr. King was called in to assist after the fact to lend his national stature to the SNCC efforts, which thanks to SCLC’s James Bevel to initiate and organize the dramatic Selma to Montgomery marches that that directly contributed to President Johnson calling for, and Congress passing, the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Here is the back story: On the night of February 18, 1965, about 500 people organized by the SCLC activists left Zion United Methodist Church in Marion and attempted a peaceful walk to the Perry County jail, about a half a block away; where young civil-rights worker James Orange was being held. The marchers planned to sing hymns and return to the church. Police later said that they believed the crowd was planning a jailbreak.
They were met at the post office by a line of Marion police officers, sheriff’s deputies and Alabama state troopers. During the standoff, streetlights were abruptly turned off, rather they were shot out by the police, and the police began to beat the protesters. Among those beaten were two United Press International photographers, whose cameras were smashed, and beaten, who was beaten so badly that they were hospitalized. The marchers turned and scattered back toward the church.
Jackson, his mother Viola Jackson, and his 82-year-old grandfather Cager Lee, ran into Mack’s Café behind the church, pursued by state troopers. Police clubbed Lee to the floor in the kitchen; when Viola attempted to pull the police off, she was also beaten. When Jackson tried to protect his mother, one trooper threw him against a cigarette machine. A second trooper shot Jackson twice in the abdomen. State Trooper Fowler later admitted to pulling the trigger, saying he thought Jackson was going for his gun. The wounded Jackson fled the café, suffering additional blows by the police, and collapsed in front of the bus station.
In the presence of FBI officials, Jackson told a lawyer that he was “clubbed down” by state troopers after he was shot and had run away from the café. Jackson died of his wounds at Good Samaritan Hospital in Selma eight days later, on February 26, 1965. Sister Michael Anne, an administrator at Good Samaritan, later said there were powder burns on Jackson’s abdomen, indicating that he was shot at very close range.
As the truth of this story shows, they have been murdering black folk forever and not just today in modern times, but for as long as people were black and the police have been a racist arm of the Klan. Just remember, the police came to be as slave catchers. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…