Hundreds view Wharlest Jackson documentary

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 23, 2011

NATCHEZ — Hundreds of community members gathered at Natchez City Auditorium Tuesday for the screening of a documentary that brought to light a case gone cold.

The story of Wharlest Jackson was told by Louisiana filmmaker Keith Beauchamp and the Investigation Discovery channel’s program The Injustice Files with the intention of finding and prosecuting those involved with his murder.

No one was ever arrested for the 1967 car bombing that killed the civil rights leader shortly after he had taken a promotion to a “whites only” job.

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“It’s a blessing, all of this coming out,” said Debra Jackson Sylvester, daughter of Wharlest Jackson. “Especially for young people to see the struggle. We as black people have suffered a long time. Unity, and coming together as a people, is what my mother and father stood for.”

Thank you for honoring my father tonight, Wharlest Jackson Jr. said to the audience.

“We are examining a man’s life tonight,” Jackson said. “A man who stood for family, jobs, voting and the rights we now enjoy.”

Jackson’s daughter Denise Jackson Ford thanked Beauchamp for following up on the case that has been closed and reopened three times.

“This man has a calling on him,” Ford said. “It takes a special calling to do the work he’s doing.”

Beauchamp said he could not be passive when he had the opportunity to make Jackson’s story known to the world.

“Many of us hear about social problems, but some of us have to act,” Beauchamp said. “Filmmaking is my way to give justice and closure to the family. That’s what I want, and I hope you can participate in that process.”

After the screening, Beauchamp opened the floor for audience questions and comments.

Adams County Board of Supervisors Board President Darryl Grennell stood and thanked Beauchamp for making the documentary.

“I was 2 years old when this occurred,” Grennell said. “I remember people around me talking about it all the time, and it was chilling.”

Grennell said his father replaced Jackson in the local NAACP chapter after his murder. With his colleagues, Grennell raised money for a state marker, which is on order and will be delivered soon.

“Growing up, my whole life, my mother told stories of heroes in Natchez and the struggles in the city,” said Carlos Evers, son of Mississippi Rights Leader Charles Evers.

Scores of young people attended the screening with Natchez High School teacher Creseda Crawford, who said she was proud of her students for coming.

“As young people, always know you can be a freedom conductor to spark change in your own way,” Beauchamp said.

Director of the Natchez cultural heritage tourism and Natchez Association for the Preservation of Afro-American Culture Darrell White said the good turnout was a testament to the community’s yearning for knowledge and closure to some tragic chapters of the town’s history.

“Collectively those in attendance will be better prepared to assist in moving the community forward,” White said.

A memorial for Jackson will be Sunday at 3 p.m. at 9 Minor St., near Martin Luther King Jr. Road, the location where he was murdered exactly 44 years ago.