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Sun, 11.29.1914

James Jackson Jr. Unionist born

James Jackson Jr.

*James Jackson Jr. was born on this date in 1914.  He was a Black union leader, activist, tactician, teacher, writer and humanist.   

James Jackson Jr. was born in Richmond, Va. The son of James Jackson Sr. and Clara Kersey.  He was a middle child of two sisters and two other siblings died in infancy.  Jackson graduated from Virginia Union University in 1934, and at Howard University (the alma mater of his parents) graduated from the College of Pharmacy in 1937.  Soon after, Jackson left to join other members of the Young Communist League in founding and building the Southern Negro Youth Congress (SNYC).

Joining him in this effort were Ed and Augusta Strong, Louis and Dorothy Burnham and Grace Bassett.  In 1941 he married Esther Cooper Jackson they had two daughters Harriet and Kathryn.  Also, in 1941, Mildred McAdory, a domestic worker and SNYC activist, refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white person in Birmingham, Ala., and was arrested. SNYC led a big struggle on her behalf. Some of SNYCs materials such as its petition for a new South and the Behold the Land speech in 1946 reached as many as 100,000 young people.  Jackson served in the U.S. Army in Burma during World War II and after his discharge In 1946, Jackson signed up Black veterans in Mississippi to vote for the first time.

In 1956, Jackson was among Communist Party leaders convicted by the House Un-American Committee under the Smith Act for conspiring to teach the overthrow of the government by force and violence. Among Jacksons character witnesses were Ralph Bunche and W.E.B. Du Bois. Jackson was convicted, but a Supreme Court decision in another case prevented Jackson from being imprisoned.  In 1968, he flew to Hanoi in North Vietnam and slipped into South Vietnam, where he observed first-hand the Viet Minh’s struggle against the U.S. aggressors. Jackson was the last U.S. reporter to interview Ho Chi Minh before his death in 1969.

Many contemporary books dealing with the racial and class struggles in the South pay tribute to the pioneer work of Jim and Esther Jackson, most notably the two-volume Pulitzer Prize winning biography of Du Bois by David Levering Lewis.  James E. Jackson, Jr., a giant in the struggle for African American equality, world peace and socialism, died on Sept. 1, 2007. He was one of the truly heroic figures of the Black freedom movement in America, the progressive movement generally, and the Communist Party USA.  


James and Esther Cooper Jackson, Love and Courage in the Black Freedom Movement,
Sara Rzeszutek Haviland,
2015, University of Kentucky Press

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