November 15th, 2010

Former Police Officer Gets Six Months in Jail for 1965 Murder of Civil Rights Activist in Alabama

In May 2007, former Alabama state trooper James Bonard Fowler was charged with the 1965 murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson, a 26-year-old African American veteran, activist, and father. On the night of February 18, 1965, Fowler and dozens of other armed state troopers attacked a peaceful civil rights demonstration in Marion, Alabama. Jackson was participating in the protest and had sought refuge from the police violence in a nearby café with family members when Fowler entered and shot Jackson multiple times as he tried to protect his loved ones. In September 1965, a grand jury declined to indict Fowler for the killing.

District Attorney Michael Jackson reopened the case against Fowler after he confessed in a 2004 interview with The Anniston Star that he had shot Jackson three times in self defense. Though charged with murder, on November 15, 2010, Fowler pleaded guilty to misdemeanor manslaughter and was sentenced to six months in jail and six months probation. During the hearing, Fowler maintained he had acted in self defense but offered an apology to Jackson’s family. Fowler was released in April 2011 after serving only five months.


November 15th, 1830

North Carolina Passes Laws to Limit Access to David Walker’s Anti-Slavery Pamphlet

On September 28, 1829, David Walker, a free African American abolitionist and activist living in Boston, Massachusetts, published An Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World, a radical, militant anti-slavery pamphlet advocating for racial equality and calling for free and enslaved blacks to actively challenge injustice, racial oppression, and the institution of slavery.

Mr. Walker exhorted enslaved people to “lay aside abject servility” and to unite and rebel against their masters. The Appeal was the first published document to demand the immediate and uncompensated emancipation of slaves in America. Mr. Walker also indirectly targeted his pamphlet to whites, urging them to cease their inhumane treatment of slaves and warning that “your destruction is at hand, and will be speedily consummated unless you repent.” The pamphlet was quickly and clandestinely circulated among blacks, especially in the South, inciting anger among many whites.

The response was swift and harsh. Jacob Cowan, a literate enslaved man in North Carolina, was sold “down river” to Alabama after he was caught with 200 copies of the pamphlet for distribution to other enslaved people in the community. Copies of the pamphlet found by Southern officials were destroyed, the State of Georgia offered a bounty for Mr. Walker’s capture, and several Southern states passed laws to further oppress both enslaved and free black people.

On November 15, 1830, North Carolina passed two laws designed to limit the influence of the pamphlet and discourage its dissemination. An Act to Prevent the Circulation of Seditious Publications banned bringing into the state any publication with the tendency to inspire revolution or resistance among enslaved or free black people; a first violation of the law was punishable by whipping and one year imprisonment, while those convicted of a second offense would “suffer death without benefit of clergy.”

The second law forbid all persons in the state from teaching the enslaved to read and write. A white person convicted of violating the law would be subject to a $100 to $200 fine or imprisonment; a free black person would face a fine, imprisonment, or between twenty and thirty-nine lashes; and an enslaved black person convicted of teaching other slaves to read or write would receive thirty-nine lashes.

Mr. Walker’s Appeal had significant impact and is widely credited with turning the abolitionist movement in a more radical direction and setting the stage for later insurrections, such as Nat Turner’s 1831 rebellion in Virginia.