On the night of February 18, 1965, 26-year-old Jimmie Lee Jackson attended a civil rights rally at Zion's Chapel Methodist Church in Marion, Alabama. But when the peaceful protesters exited the church, they were met with hostile reactions from the state and local police. Jimmie and his family tried to escape by decking into a nearby café, but the troopers followed them in and Jimmie Lee was shot in the stomach and died from his injuries eight days later. Although his death was officially investigated at the time, charges were never brought forward. The case was later reopened and earlier this week, 77-year-old former state trooper James Bonard Fowler was sentenced to six months in prison for pulling the trigger.
Jackson's death was hardly a footnote in civil rights history. Rather, it was a driving force for the Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches, the most famous being the "Bloody Sunday" march that took place on March 7, 1965 where some 600 people were attacked by local police with billy clubs and tear gas.
In remembrance of Jackson, and for those of you wanting to experience the sounds of personal empowerment, Folkways has two recordings that capture this moment in civil rights history. Music was a core element to these protests and Freedom Songs: Selma Alabama was recorded in 1965 and WNEW's Story of Selma helps to paint a sonic picture of the times. You can sample these items using our music player below and you can also purchase them from the Smithsonian Folkways.