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October 22, 2015

SFC Professor Authors Book on Beginnings of Black Freedom Movement

History Professor Sara Haviland Tells Story of James and Esther Cooper Jackson

What began as an undergraduate, oral history project is now a freshly, published book on a Virginia couple that sat at the vanguard of the black civil rights movement from the 1930’s and for decades later.

sara haviland james aesther cooper jackson

St. Francis College History Professor Sara Rzeszutek Haviland’s work, James and Esther Cooper Jackson: Love and Courage in the Black Freedom Movement (University Press of Kentucky), is rich with first person accounts and archival material straight from the Jacksons that shed new light on the intertwining and unwinding of the communist and civil rights movements.

Haviland says civil rights is really the background for the book, but at its core, she’s telling a love story. “What came through was an authentic marriage of a couple that was deeply in love. They fought for their love as much as they fought for everything else.”

Much of the Jackson’s work was done while they were apart, because James was in hiding. They were instrumental in the founding of the Southern Negro Youth Congress, which laid the groundwork for youth activists in the 1960’s and helped launch the magazine Freedomways, which established noted authors and activists including Alice Walker and Nikki Giovanni.

“I knew telling their story was a unique opportunity, and that it would contribute to the historiography of the black freedom movement in an important way.”

"I knew telling their story was a unique opportunity,” added Professor Haviland. “Following the Jacksons through six decades of love and activism is a way to offer new insight into the changing black freedom movement."

Sara Rzeszutek Haviland is assistant professor of history at St. Francis Col­lege. She has contributed chapters to Freedom Rights: New Perspectives on the Civil Rights Movement and Red Activists and Black Freedom: James and Esther Jackson and the Long Civil Rights Revolution.

In addition, she’s worked with the Brooklyn Historical Society’s Students and Faculty in the Archives (SAFA) project to teach history students about using archives as a tool to study civil rights in Brooklyn (www.teacharchives.org). Professor Haviland was also part of the American Historical Association’s Tuning Project which helps promote the importance and relevance of being a history major. She was also named to the 40 under 40: Professors Who Inspire 2015 list by Nerd Scholar.

Professor Haviland earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree from Mount Holyoke College and her Ph.D. from Rutgers University.

St. Francis College, founded in 1859 by the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn, is located in Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. Since its founding, the College has pursued its Franciscan mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education to students from New York City’s five boroughs and beyond.

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