During an interview two years ago with the Crisis Publishing Co., Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso R. Jackson commented that by now you’d think he would have appeared on the cover of at least one major black publication.
After all, the youngest of 12 children had answered a call from Martin Luther King requesting that he travel to Alabama and help organize a voter-registration drive. From there, he was asked to join in the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., what became known as “Bloody Sunday,” when some of Mr. Jackson’s own blood would be spilled.
Why then, given his civil rights background and impressive White House Cabinet position today, does Mr. Jackson have such a low profile in the black community?
“If I were black with a ‘D’ behind my name, I’d probably be in every liberal newspaper on the front page the day President Bush appointed me,” Mr. Jackson told the interviewer.
Two weeks ago, this otherwise influential member of the Bush administration spoke to the AfricanAmerican Leadership Summit in Washington, where he agreed with Bill Cosby and other black leaders “who argue that we must use every avenue possible to empower our people.”
“This will help us directly confront a crisis in the black community [. . . ] crime, health, poverty, unemployment, poor education, lack of homeownership, misdirection, loss of hope and diminished freedom.”
He then recalled the “powerful lesson” of leadership he learned while a freshman at historically black Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, when Bernard Lee, King’s top aide, personally invited him to Alabama.
“I jumped at the chance,” Mr. Jackson recalled. “And we marched to Selma. My life was forever changed on a Sunday morning as I stood, peacefully, with 600 other marchers on Pettus Bridge. More than 200 troopers met us on a day now known as Bloody Sunday. A man named Al Lingo ordered the troopers to release the dogs on us, and the beatings began.
“I was standing four rows from the front. I can still hear the N-word rolling from Al Lingo’s lips. They used whips and nightsticks, tear gas, electric cattle prods and digs. More than 50 of us went down. One of the dogs tore into my flesh. I still have the scar.”