This Day in History

Feb. 26, 1965: Jimmie Lee Jackson Murdered

Time Periods: 1961
Themes: African American, Civil Rights Movements, Democracy & Citizenship, Racism & Racial Identity

Jimmie Lee Jackson. Source: National Civil Rights Museum

Who murdered Jimmie Lee Jackson? We know a state trooper acting under the orders of George Wallace pointed the gun and pulled the trigger, but how many other fingers were on that trigger? Every white lawman who abuses the law to terrorize! Every white politician who feeds on prejudice and hatred! Every white preacher who preaches the Bible and stays silent before his white congregation! Who murdered Jimmie Lee Jackson? Every Negro man and woman who stands by without joining this fight as their brothers and sisters are humiliated, brutalized, and ripped from this earth! — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. King said this words at the funeral for Jimmie Lee Jackson, who died on Feb. 26, 1965, from injuries inflicted by police officers on the night of Feb. 18, 1965.

Jackson, a civil rights activist and a deacon in the Baptist church, was beaten and shot by state troopers in Marion, Alabama, during a peaceful voting rights march. He was unarmed. His death was the catalyst for the march from Selma to Montgomery just a month later.

To teach about the fight for voting rights and long history of the Selma freedom movement, use the lesson “Stepping into Selma: Voting Rights History and Legacy Today.”

There is also a “discernible line [that] connects Jackson’s killing to events that took place almost 100 years before, in Colfax, Louisiana — events that ultimately, and drastically, impacted the federal government’s ability to prosecute racially motivated crimes.”

Read about this Reconstruction era connection in “The Killing of Jimmie Lee Jackson: How a post-Civil War massacre impacted racial justice in America” by Debo P. Adegbile for the Marshall Project.

Read a related eulogy by King for Rev. James Reeb.