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House where King planned Alabama civil rights marches moving to Michigan


An Alabama home where Martin Luther King Junior mapped out the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches has been sold to a historical museum in Michigan. The structure will be moved to a site near Detroit for preservation. Alabama Public Radio has covered the story of the so called “Jackson House” extensively. It was part of APR’s international award-winning documentary on the 50th anniversary of the death of MLK, and a follow-up feature by Gulf coast correspondent Lynn Oldshue.

APR reported during our documentary “The King of Alabama…

“This is the house that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. lived as he planned the Selma to Montgomery march,” says Jawana Jackson. That house is her family home, which has remained virtually unchanged since the mid-1960s. It essentially became the headquarters for the civil rights movement. “so when Dr. King decided to do the Selma march several years later, he asked my parents if he could come and stay here and use this as a base of operation. And of course our lives changed drastically, from a house that had a mother and a father and a little girl, almost overnight became a house where the world came in.”

Jawana was about five at the time.

“And I wish I had been just a little older to understand the gravity – to understand the historical significance. To the world he was Martin Luther King, Jr. To me, he was Uncle Martin.”

Jawana runs the Jackson house as a museum and foundation. And it’s filled with artifacts from the era.

“Of the beds in this house, of course Uncle Martin slept in every one," she says. "And over the years my mother, for practical purposes, bought new mattresses and box springs. But this is the original mattress and box spring that was on the bed when he was here.”

And then there’s the spot where King saw all this effort pay off.

“The museum contains the very chair, the very television that Dr. King was sitting in the night that President Johnson announced that he would indeed sign the Voting Rights Act, which he did several months later in August of 1965.”

“You hear so much about the march, but not what went on behind the scenes,” says Elisa George. She’s part of a student group from Trinity Washington University touring the Jackson House. “And just to be able to be here and experience and feel the spirit of the people who planned it, and what they probably had to endure, and the changes their decisions made in this place, was very impactful for us.”

The Jackson House will be dismantled starting later this year and trucked more than 800 miles to The Henry Ford Museum's Greenfield Village in Dearborn. The project is expected to take up to three years. There were late-night visitors, phone calls and meetings at the house that was a safe haven for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders as they planned the Selma to Montgomery marches calling for Black voting rights. The role the Jackson House played was integral to the Civil Rights Movement, so Jackson contacted the The Henry Ford Museum near Detroit about a year ago to ask if it would take over the preservation of the Jackson House and its legacy.

"It became increasingly clearer to me that the house belonged to the world, and quite frankly, The Henry Ford was the place that I always felt in my heart that it needed to be," she told The Associated Press last week from her home in Pensacola, Florida.

Starting this year, the Jackson House will be dismantled piece-by-piece and trucked the more than 800 miles north to Dearborn, Michigan, where it will eventually be open to the public as part of the history museum. The project is expected to take up to three years. King was inside the home when President Lyndon Johnson announced a bill that would become the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The house and artifacts, including King's neckties and pajamas, and the chair where he sat while watching Johnson's televised announcement, will be part of the acquisition by The Henry Ford. The purchase price is confidential.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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  • The voting rights marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma back in 1965 are iconic moments in civil rights history. The attack on demonstrators known as “bloody Sunday” led to the signing of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Now, sites related to the Selma marches is getting some much needed attention. Doctor Martin Luther King, junior planned the demonstrations at what’s now known as the Jackson House. During the march to Montgomery, the activists slept at three campsites. Both the Jackson home and the first of the overnight camping spots are now privately owned and efforts are underway to keep them alive. APR Gulf Coast Correspondent Lynn Oldshue has more on work to preserve this piece of history.
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