Photo credits: Southern Poverty Law Center
Jimmie Lee Jackson (pictured) was an African American farmer and civil rights activist from Marion, Alabama.
Jackson was also a deacon who served the Baptist church. He was born in Marion on December 16, 1938, to Jimmie Lee Sr. and Viola Jackson. The Jacksons were a farming family that was devoted to the Baptist church. Jackson’s father died when he was 18-years-old. He then took over working on and managing the family farm. Eventually, he had a daughter.
Many sources claim Jackson served in the Vietnam War. However, his family disputes that he ever served in the military. On February 18, 1965, while unarmed and participating in a peaceful voting rights march in his city, he was brutally beaten and fatally shot by the Alabama State Troopers. Jackson died eight days later at a hospital in Selma, Alabama.
His death helped inspire the Selma to Montgomery marches in March 1965. These were major events in the Civil Rights Movement, which helped gain Congressional passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This opened the door to millions of African Americans being able to vote again in Alabama and across the Southern United States.
They regained participation as citizens in the political system for the first time since the turn of the 20th century. Most African Americans had been disenfranchised since then by state constitutions and discriminatory practices. These race-based practices made the voter registration process and voting at the polls much more difficult.
Though Jackson’s death sparked a legislative revolution, judicial justice was not delivered. In 2005, former Alabama State Trooper James Bonard Fowler admitted that he shot Jackson–in what he said was self-defense soon after street lights had gone out and a melee had broken out. 2007 was the year former trooper Fowler was indicted in Jackson’s death.
In 2010, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter. He was sentenced to only six months in prison.