Rare footage filmed in Natchez 50 years ago to be featured on national documentary about bombing of civil rights leader

Published 12:23 pm Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Rare film footage — much of it never before broadcast on national television — taken in Natchez more than 50 years ago, will shine the spotlight on one of the still-unresolved killings from the civil rights era.

The documentary called “American Reckoning” premieres on PBS’s series FRONTLINE  at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 15. The documentary is the latest component in FRONTLINE’s ongoing Un(re)solved project — a multiplatform investigation of civil rights era cold case murders.

Compared to the deaths of Emmett Till and Medgar Evers, the bombing death of NAACP leader Wharlest Jackson has received little attention outside of Natchez.

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“American Reckoning,” created by directors and producers Brad Lichtenstein and Yoruba Richen, will examine black opposition to racist violence in Mississippi as it focuses on efforts to bring to justice those responsible for Jackson’s death, according to an announcement of the film written by Anne Husted, Series Publicity Manager for FRONTLINE. 

The documentary will use film footage from Natchez during the civil rights era, much of it never-before broadcast. Made available through the Amistad Research Center in New Orleans, the footage was taken by Ed Pincus and David Neuman for 10 weeks in 1965 when Pincus and Neuman were documenting early efforts to organize and register Black voters.

“American Reckoning offers a window into an untold story of a Black-led liberation and self-defense movement in Natchez, as well as the funeral of Wharlest Jackson Sr. and its aftermath,” Husted wrote.

In addition to film footage from 1965 and 1967, interviews and archival material from that time, the documentary will also take a look at the reporting of Concordia Sentinel journalist Stanley Nelson, who investigated allegations of the involvement of a Ku Klux Klan offshoot, known as the Silver Dollar Group, in Jackson’s murder.