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Remembering The Unsung Heroes Of Selma


When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Andrew Young and other civil rights leaders organized the Selma to Montgomery marches, they didn't plan them at a church or a hotel. They used a small house in a nondescript neighborhood in Selma. Reporter Scottie Hunter of member station WVAS takes us to the home that played such a big role in the movement.


SCOTTIE HUNTER: Jazz fills the halls of Johanna Jackson's one-story childhood home on Lapsley Street in Selma. She was 5 years old when her parents, Sullivan and Richie Jean, first invited their personal friend, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to stay with them for days and weeks at a time. Jackson had no idea that Selma to Montgomery march was being planned in front of her - she just remembers her special uncle, as she called him, coming to visit.


JOHANNA JACKSON: I made mud cakes one day and decided that I was going to have a tea. Dr. King was in the home and I saw him and I said, Uncle Martin? And he said, yes? And I said, would you join me for a mud cake tea? And he did.

HUNTER: Moments like this allowed Dr. King to find sanctuary and escape the pressures of that time. On a tour of the home, Jackson says King was also able to be a fun-loving family man - a side few people knew.

JACKSON: Whenever he would first see me, he would pick me up and give me five dollars and give me a huge, huge hug.

HUNTER: The ornate dining room attracted many of the march organizers. The small kitchen is the center of the two-bedroom home. It's where Jackson's mom, Richie Jean, prepared dozens of meals for the many people who would pop in.

JACKSON: Nourishment in this house was critical and it was always done. This is the table in which many, many midnight snacks were prepared and laughter would come from this room.

HUNTER: There was concern, too. Jackson's parents were worried about possible violence at the home. She remembers a safety plan her family had prepared just in case.

JACKSON: If there was danger around, then I would be placed in a wash basket. And then that basket was picked up on a street behind our house by an uncle of my mother's who had a funeral home. So a hearse would come by and the clothes basket would be put in the back of the hearse and then I would be taken to a safe haven.

HUNTER: As she walks along the paisley and flower-covered rugs that line the living room and study, she comes to a special place.

JACKSON: This bedroom is significant.

HUNTER: Jackson points to a picture from JET Magazine showing Dr. King meeting with other civil rights leaders and a rotary telephone.

JACKSON: This is the room in which Dr. King would always accept calls from the White House and President Johnson. This is the phone in which those calls were accepted.

HUNTER: No one has lived here since Jackson's mom died in 2013. She wants to preserve her parents' legacy and honor their sacrifice by turning the house into a museum. She hopes this place by the side of a quiet road in Selma will bring inspiration and hope to future generations. For NPR News, I'm Scottie Hunter. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scottie Hunter

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