Son of slain Natchez civil rights leader to join panel on ‘American Reckoning’

Published 12:15 pm Wednesday, March 22, 2023

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 Wharlest Jackson Jr. will be traveling to Syracuse University to join a panel discussion on the PBS Frontline documentary, “American Reckoning,” his sister, Denise Jackson Ford, announced Monday. He will discuss, among other things, the experiences of his family during the civil rights movement in Natchez in the 1960s.

Wharlest Jr. and Ford are the children of slain civil rights leader Wharlest Jackson Sr. Their father died when his truck was reportedly bombed by members of the Ku Klux Klan in Natchez, on Feb. 27, 1967. No one was ever charged with his racially motivated murder, and the case remains unsolved.

 “American Reckoning” is a documentary that chronicles the life and death of Wharlest Sr. It first aired in February 2022. The film features both Wharlest Jr. and Ford. It follows their family’s efforts to find out what happened to Wharlest Sr. and who was responsible for his murder. The film also examines the history of white supremacy in Natchez.

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 The upcoming program, which is hosted by Syracuse University College of Law, is set for Tuesday, March 28, at Melanie Gray Ceremonial Courtroom, Dineen Hall on the school campus, according to a school flyer.

 Screening of the film will begin at 5:30 p.m. and be followed by a panel discussion and reception. The entire program is free and open to the public. It will be livestreamed at

 Ford said she is grateful to SU for this opportunity. “Syracuse University Cold Case Studies has always been there to support our family along with the students who are involved in their research and education,” she said. “We want to support Syracuse University.”

 In addition to Wharlest Jr., other panelists will include Paula Johnson, professor of Law and director of the Cold Case Justice Initiative, and Brad Lichtenstein, film producer. Chanelle Benz, assistant professor of Creative Writing in the SU department of English, will serve as moderator.

 For Ford, her brother’s participation in the program is another opportunity for her family to stand and be proud of their father’s contributions, especially his sacrifice to the civil rights movement.

 “To walk like a giant in the footsteps of those who have gone on before us, I walk with my father today,” she said. “I am always elated when an event happens to memorialize my father. He stood for our city and state. I am proud of Wharlest Sr..”

For more information, contact Professor Paula Johnson by email at

 The film can be viewed at