Sunday’s “Jimmie Lee Jackson Day” program in Marion, Alabama began the two-week observance of the Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee in the Black Belt of Alabama.
The Jubilee commemorates the events of February and March 1965, including the police killing of Jimmie Lee Jackson in Marion on February 18, 1965; the subsequent Selma to Montgomery Marches, including Bloody Sunday on March 7, when the original marchers were beaten by Alabama state troopers, which led to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Jimmie Lee Jackson was a 26-year-old Black farmer and woodcutter, who was also the deacon of his church, St. James Baptist Church in Marion.
He lived with his family in poverty in a house without running water. Jackson was shot by a state trooper, in a downtown Marion café, during a night march in support of James Orange, an SCLC organizer, who was arrested for encouraging voter registration in Perry County. Jimmy Lee Jackson was shot trying to protect his mother and grandfather and died eights days later in a Selma hospital.
The original idea for the Selma to Montgomery March was to carry the body of Jimmie Lee Jackson and place it on the doorsteps of Governor George Wallace’s office in the State Capital in Montgomery. The march went forward on Sunday, March 7, 1965, without Jimmie Lee’s body, but in the spirit of his martyrdom for protesting for the right to vote and other civil and human rights.
This year is the 58th anniversary of Bloody Sunday and Jackson’s untimely death. It also is the 58th anniversary of the founding Perry County Civic League, a grassroots civic involvement organization, formed by Albert Turner and other Black community leaders in Perry County. The PCCL is one of a few organizations formed in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s that has survived and continued working on its mission of justice, voting rights and service for poor and Black people.
In his comments on the occasion, Albert F. Turner Jr., Perry County Commissioner and President of the PCCL, said. “Our organization has stood the test of time. They are trying to indict me for helping people to vote but I am not afraid because God will see us through his challenge, as He has many others. We are not giving up; we are going to keep fighting.
The Perry County Civic League honored graduates of Lincoln School, which as a Black high school in Perry County, founded by ex-slaves that promoted education from the end of the Civil War until 1970. They also honored Johnnie McAlpine, who was the first Black Superintendent of Education in Perry County.
Albert Turner Jr. introduced Jesse Jackson, Jr. former Chicago Congressman, who was the guest speaker. Jackson Jr. said he was born on March 11, 1965, in North Carolina, while his father was in Selma, assisting Dr. King in working on the march to Montgomery, so “I have a clear connection to what was happening in Alabama around the time of my birth.
Jackson said,” We need to honor Jimmie Lee Jackson more than we do as a moving force in the battle to win the right to vote, No Obama without Jimmie Lee, No Katangi Brown Jackson; with Jimmie Lee, No Senator Raphael Warnock; without Jimmie Lee, No Black Congressional Caucus, No Black Mayors without the sacrifice of Jimmie Lee. We must not forget his contribution to our movement and our progress.”
Jackson also said the gravesite of Jimmie Lee Jackson in Marion needs to be renovated with a statue, lighting, and more prominence. Jackson said he visited the gravesite before speaking and feels it needs to be elevated and illuminated.
The Bridge Crossing Jubilee will be held in Selma, Alabama from March 2 to 6, 2023.
Senator Hank Sanders in a press release on the Bridge Crossing Jubilee said, “It is the largest annual Civil Rights, Voting Rights and Human Rights gathering in the country. Tens of thousands come each year from across the nation and the world to Selma to experience it. “
He said, “Among the many speakers are the following: Martin Luther King, III; Bishop William J. Barber II of Repairers of the Breach and the Poor People’s Campaign; U.S. Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke; SCLC President Dr. Charles Steele; U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock; Congresswoman Maxine Waters; Congresswoman Terri Sewell; Coumba Toure Ba of Africa Rising; NAACP President Derrick Johnson; Reverend Jesse Jackson of Rainbow PUSH; Black Voters Matter Co-Founder Cliff Albright; AFSCME International Vice President Doug Moore; Marcia Thomas of USA for Africa; ADC Chair Dr. Joe Reed; Dorian Spence of the national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; Anthony T. Browder, author and cultural historian working to excavate and restore historical tombs in Egypt; Dr. Ray Winbush, Professor at Morgan State University and author; Obi Egbuna, historian, journalist and radio host; Dr. Robert White, Professor at Alabama State University and historian; former School Superintendent John Heard; former School Board President Dr. Carol Zippert; and many others.”
For more information, check out the website at: http://www.bridgecrossingjubilee.com.