Posted on February 18, 2016
Today, we honor Black History Month by remembering Jimmie Lee Jackson, a person who stood up for his beliefs during an incredibly volatile time in American history. The murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson, an unarmed African American man who was killed on this day, February 18, in 1965, set off a chain of events, the effects of which still resonate today. The murder created a catalyst for the Selma to Montgomery marches, and the brutal attack on peaceful protestors at the first march—and the subsequent outrage it caused—led to the passing of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. The United States Supreme Court struck down a provision of this important act in 2013, declaring it unconstitutional due to an outdated coverage formula. Read about the details of Jimmie Lee Jackson’s story below, and let us know what you think in the comments.
FEBRUARY 18th, 1965
The Murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson
Jimmie Lee Jackson was born in Marion, Alabama, a small town near Selma. He fought in the Vietnam war and eventually returned to Marion where he worked as a laborer and became a church deacon.
He tried to register to vote several times, but Alabama’s legal roadblocks prevented him.
Even after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, most African Americans in the southern United States were still unable to vote because of registration requirements such as literacy tests and slow registration processes. In Selma, Alabama, the registration office was open only two days a month and could only process 15 registrations for each of these days. This was not nearly enough to register the 15,000 black citizens of voting age in the county. For two years, leaders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) had been trying to break down these barriers, but received little outside support. In 1964, Judge Hare in Alabama passed a ban on mass meetings, making this organizational process even more difficult.
James Orange was a field secretary for the SNCC. In February 1965, authorities arrested and jailed Orange on charges of disorderly conduct and contributing to the delinquency of minors for enlisting students to aid in voting rights drives.
Fearful that Orange would be lynched, a group of local SNCC civil rights activists gathered to march in support of him on the evening of February 18, 1965. Shortly after the peaceful march began, Alabama State Troopers ordered the protesters to disperse, but simultaneously attacked them. Authorities had also turned off street lights.
Jimmie Lee Jackson, his mother, Viola Jackson, and his eighty-two-year-old grandfather, Cager Lee, were among those who tried to get away. The three escaped into a nearby cafe, but police followed them into the cafe and physically assaulted them. When Jimmie Lee Jackson came to the aid of his mother and grandfather, he was shot twice in the abdomen by trooper James Fowler.
Jackson managed to escape before collapsing. He died eight days later on February 26th at a local hospital. In his eulogy, Martin Luther King, Jr. described Jimmie Lee Jackson as a “martyred hero.” When civil rights organizer SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) Director of Direct Action James Bevel heard of Jackson’s murder, he called for a march—the first of three—from Selma to Montgomery to talk to Governor George Wallace about the attack that resulted in Jackson’s death in addition to voting rights issues. During the March 7, 1965 march, a wall of state troopers brutally attacked the peaceful protestors, and the day soon became known as “Bloody Sunday.”
That September, a grand jury declined to indict James Fowler.
Forty-two years later, on May 10, 2007, an Alabama grand jury indicted Fowler for the Jackson’s murder. Fowler pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree manslaughter on November 15, 2010. He apologized for the shooting, but insisted that he had acted in self-defense, believing that Mr. Jackson was trying to grab his gun.
Fowler was sentenced to six months in prison and was released early after serving 5 months due to health problems. He died on July 5, 2015.
On August 6, 1965, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The act aimed to overcome legal barriers at the state and local levels that prevented African Americans from exercising their right to vote under the 15th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. The act significantly widened the franchise and is considered among the most far-reaching pieces of civil rights legislation in U.S. history.
Thought the Act seemed a permanent victory for voting rights, on June 25, 2013, the US Supreme Court effectively cancelled the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by a 5-to-4 vote, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, in her dissent, wrote, “For a half century a concerted effort has been made to end racial discrimination in voting. Thanks to the Voting Rights Act, progress once the subject of a dream has been achieved and continues to be made.”
“The court errs egregiously,” she concluded, “by overriding Congress’s decision.”
In 2014, a group of Congress members introduced the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 to strengthen the Voting Rights Act, but both the House and Senate versions of the bill died in their respective Judiciary Committees. The House introduced the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2015 the following year, but it is not expected to move past the committee stage.
Let us know your thoughts on these questions in the comments:
- What lessons should we take away from Jackson’s murder and its effects on the Selma marches and the Voting Rights Act of 1965?
- Why do you think it took forty-two years for James Fowler to be indicted for Jimmie Lee Jackson’s murder?
- What parallels do you see between the murder of Jimmie Lee Jackson and other deaths of unarmed African American men and women in recent years?
- Do you agree with the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision, or do you think that it has allowed some states to re-introduce barriers to voting?
Reference: Equal Justice Initiative site
Reference: Bio site
Reference: NYT article on 2013 Supreme Court decision
Posted on February 12, 2016
When everything and everyone around me is changing, I know I can always come back to you and go back to being 17 for a night.
A car filled with familiar faces. Windows rolled down. Country music blasting from whichever station is coming through the static best on the back roads that we’re driving down just a little too fast to avoid the inevitable traffic.
We know the parking lot will already be more than half full once we get there. We know which trucks to avoid and which trucks to sprint to. We know this night like the back of our hands, because we’ve lived it before. We’ve lived it multiple times every summer since middle school.
It’s the kind of night that stays with you forever, the feelings you can’t seem to forget, the memories you’ll never fully shake.
Most importantly, it’s the place that holds those nights, feelings and memories. It’s the place you close your eyes and mentally escape to on a rainy day. It’s your happy place.
And this is my thank you letter to my happy place: Bethel Woods.
I woke up last Friday morning to seven text messages of the same screenshot. Bethel Woods had finally announced the summer 2016 country concert line-up. Before I could even try to fight it, my mind jumped back to when the line-up was announced a few years ago. We were all in high school. Summers were simple. There was no question about whether or not we would be at every single concert together.
Things have changed a lot since then and I found myself aching with nostalgia as I looked at the dates and wondered if I’d be able to make it there for even one of the nights listed. I realized then that we didn’t necessarily take it for granted, but we definitely didn’t realize how much it would mean to us once we left.
Bethel Woods is a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Many know it as the place where the original Woodstock happened. Some know it as just another concert venue. But we’re the lucky ones. We know it as our stomping grounds.
To us, it’s a place where we learned maybe a little too much about life and love and faith and friendship. We grew up in that parking lot and on that lawn. Something about the sea of strangers made us feel invincible. Relationships started and ended. Enemies became friends and friends became family. We laughed, we fought, we danced, we cried, we said goodbyes and we figured out life on every inch of that solid ground.
Now that we’re in college, life has taken us out of our comfort zones, out of each other’s daily lives, and all over the country. But it hasn’t taken this place from us, and we know it never will, because it isn’t just about us. As we look around each year we’re surrounded by people who have made our mistakes and memories and people who are ready to start making our mistakes and memories.
We see our parents, reminiscing about when they were us. We see our younger siblings, starting to become us. Generations keep growing into this place, but no one ever seems to grow out of it. That’s part of its charm. I’ll be the first to say that I’ve outgrown my hometown and my high school, but I don’t think I’ll ever outgrow Bethel Woods. It may be the closest we ever get to a time machine and it’s a time machine that always brings us right back to simpler times. Life can’t touch something like that.
I now live in the center of country music; Nashville, Tennessee. I get to go to plenty of country concerts, to any of the country awards shows for free, and I’ve run into an unreal number of country stars at smoothie bars and malls because that’s the norm here. Yet I know I’ll always fight to find my way back to Bethel Woods at least once every summer because it’s not about the line-up and it’s not about which country stars are going to be there that year.
It’s about who’s always been there. It’s about the people in the car with you before and after the concert, the person you can always count on for a piggy back ride after you’ve stood for way too many hours, the one who will step out of the crowd during their favorite song just to console someone who is upset, the friend you run into in the parking lot after a year of not seeing them, the ones you cut the bathroom line with so you don’t miss the first song. It’s about the unbreakable bond that only people who truly know this gem in upstate New York will understand.
So Bethel Woods, thank you. Thank you for the pictures that I look at on rainy days. Thank you for giving us a place to freely laugh and cry, to freely live and learn. Thank you for helping us understand why country songs about small-town nostalgia and bittersweet first loves are so relatable. Thank you for seeing us through our awkward stages in middle school and through our goodbyes the week before we all left for college. Thank you for giving us “you had to be there” stories to tell our new friends. You hold some of my favorite memories and some of my biggest lessons.
When everything and everyone around me is changing, I know I can always come back to you and go back to being 17 years old for a night.
Posted on January 19, 2016
With the start of 2016, the Volunteer Department would like to say an extra special thanks to volunteers with the Top Ten logged hours in 2015! Overall, our 168 Volunteers have contributed about 12,700 hours to Bethel Woods Center for the Arts!
We cannot thank them enough for all the hard work and long hours that they put into our not-for-profit organization. Without them, we would not be as successful as we are today or have been for the past decade.
The “Top Ten” Volunteers of 2015 are as follows:
Since joining the BW Volunteer Team in 2009, Jim has contributed 3,350 hours to our organization! Rock on Jim!
Charlie Maloney – 401.5 Hours
John Maiorana – 326.16 Hours
Maria Maiorana – 326.16 Hours
Linda Predmore – 300.5 Hours
Linda Pomes – 275.8 Hours
Barbara Plotkin – 270 Hours
Eileen Morey – 244.5 Hours
Susan Kozykowski – 235.67 Hours
Glenn Wooddell – 219.5 Hours
Honorable Mention: Jim Shelley – 211.5 Hours
Being a not-for-profit, volunteers are very important. We honor and value our volunteers more than words can say! According to the Independent Sector, the most current data values their volunteer time at:
- An average of $22.55 per hour for the nation
- And in New York, a value of $26.45 per hour.
Also, according to Forbes guest blogger Mark Horoszowski of Next Avenue, on top of the value they bring to us, volunteering translates to an intrinsic value gained by their service, such as volunteering your skills helps you develop new skills.
Throughout the year, be on the lookout for interviews from our volunteers to find out more about them, how they contribute to what we do here, and why they love to volunteer (in and outside of Bethel Woods)!
Thank you so much to all the volunteers for their continued service throughout the years!
Posted on January 14, 2016
At Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, legacy is a multifaceted term. It defines our unique place in history, characterizes the Sixties, and influences our not-for-profit mission to inspire, educate and empower through the arts and humanities. When thinking about the lessons, leaders, and events of the ‘60s, it is difficult to think of the decade without legacy.
Legacy can be defined as anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor. This definition brings to mind many names such as John F. Kennedy, The Beatles, Malcolm X, Betty Friedan, Bob Dylan, Fidel Castro, Jimi Hendrix, Richard Nixon, and other leaders of influence who contributed to the Sixties legacy.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, one of many leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, outlined the roadmap for racial equality and remains a catalyst for civil rights in America. His legacy has left teachings of inspiration, social change and creative solutions to challenges that remind us the fight for equality is constant and all legacies are to be honored and developed from.
In honor of his legacy, it is our obligation to provide multiple perspectives and fuller knowledge of African American histories and their contributions to the world, along with other household names and unsung heroes. Students have responded to these legacies by asking one critical question of themselves: What legacy do I want to leave?
Posted on January 7, 2016
The Beatles album Rubber Soul, released in time for Christmas on December 6, 1965, became the Billboard #1 album on January 8, 1966 and remained there until February 18.
When the Beatles had returned to the studio after their 1965 tour, they decided to go in another direction. Why?
Posted on January 5, 2016
This year was riddled with moments in which I was inspired by our future. It’s filled with talent and humor and personality and vulnerability and willingness and approachability and joy. Back in May, participants of Bethel Wood’s PI: Photography program spent the evening in the green rooms, behind the scenes, and in the audience, documenting a cappella groups from five local high schools singing their hearts out for a visibly moved and appreciative audience in The Event Gallery.
Posted on January 1, 2016
It’s hard to believe we will celebrate our 10th anniversary this year. It all began on July 1, 2006 starting with 9 memorable performances and nearly 60,000 visitors. Today, with main stage performances, festivals, event gallery performances, education, community outreach and museum programs, special exhibits, and films and workshops, there seems to be something happening almost every day.
We opened the Museum at Bethel Woods in June of 2008 and shortly thereafter in 2009, celebrated the 40th anniversary of the historic Woodstock Music and Art Fair, welcoming back Richie Havens in our Global Moment. Then in 2014, we marked the 45th Anniversary with the first ever camping experience since August of 1969.
In 2010, we celebrated our fifth anniversary and our 500,000th guest. This coming year, we are well on our way to topping 2,250,000 guests. And since 2006, 20 of the 32 artists that performed in 1969 have graced on of our stages including Carlos Santana, Richie Havens, Michael Shrieve, Leslie West, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and Joe Cocker.
Since 2008, growth in our education and outreach programming has been a major priority for us. Each year, we continue to offer immersive arts and humanities programming for children, young adults, and families. In 2012, we transitioned from being a project of the private, non-profit Gerry Foundation to a public charity. With the creation of our founding governing board, and a 2-year process to develop of our strategic plan, inclusive of mission, vision, values, and core strategies, we are poised to take the next decade with a carefully planned approach of expanding our outreach, education programs and our impact as a whole.
We are very proud of our dual legacy….one of peace, love, and music nearly 50 years ago with hundreds of thousands gathered to celebrate individuality, expression, and social consciousness…combined with the legacy of our founder, Alan Gerry, a native of Sullivan County, a believer in Sullivan County, and an individual who demonstrates graciousness and has instilled generosity in us all.
There is much, much more to come and we look forward to sharing the future with you.
Posted on January 1, 2016
Bethel Woods Center for the Arts blog, WoodsTalk, is now open!
To say we are excited for the launch of this, would be an understatement. We believe that arts are critical to the strength of a community and all of us here look forward to bringing our world closer to yours. Here we will explore the topics of The Sixties, Music, and the Art and Humanities to inspire, educate, and empower you with information, tools, programs, and more! Whether connecting with a speaker or delving deeper into a movie, attending a cultural performance or standing in the spotlight, touring the museum with a school group or visiting with a family, we want to enhance and enrich your experience further by connecting with YOU on WoodsTalk!
See you on the flip side!