Angela Davis will keynote “James and Esther Jackson, the American Left, and the Origins of the Modern Civil Rights Movement,” a symposium to take place at New York University on Saturday, October 28, from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The event celebrates the James and Esther Jackson Archive, an extensive collection housed in NYU’s Tamiment Library documenting the Jacksons’ pioneering work in the early civil rights movement. The all-day symposium takes place at NYU’s Bobst Library, 10th floor (Tamiment Library), 70 Washington Square South; it is free and open to the public. For further information, call 212.998.2428 or email:

An exhibition showcasing highlights of the Jackson Collection will be on display at the Tamiment Library through December 31, 2006.

Davis, currently Presidential Chair, professor, and director of the Feminist Studies department at the University of California, Santa Cruz, will deliver the keynote address at 9:45 a.m. Through her activism and her scholarship over the last decades, she has been deeply involved in the quest for social justice. Her work has emphasized the importance of building communities for the struggle for economic, racial, and gender equality.

The symposium will focus on a historical assessment of James and Esther Jackson (who will be present); a discussion of the origins of the Civil Rights Movement; and an analysis of the relationship between the Communist Party and the African American community. Speakers will include: Robin Kelley, University of Southern California; David Levering Lewis, NYU; Robert Korstad, Duke University; Timothy Johnson, NYU; and Michael Nash, director of NYU’s Tamiment Library.

In 1937 in Richmond, Virginia, James E. Jackson and other student activists organized the Southern Negro Youth Congress (SNYC), a militant, politically oriented youth movement dedicated to ending racial segregation in the South. For nearly 60 years, Jackson was an important and influential figure in the struggle for African American equality, labor rights, and world peace; and from the 1960s through the late 1980s, he was education director and international affairs secretary for the Community Party, USA. Author of Revolutionary Tracings in World Politics and Black Liberation and The Bold, Bad `60s, he was the last American reporter to interview Ho Chi Minh before his death in 1968.

Esther Cooper Jackson joined the staff of SNYC in Birmingham, Alabama, in the early 1940’s. She was an organizer for the committee to Defend Negro Leadership, whose purpose was to support African Americans under attack during the McCarthy years. In 1961 she was part of the group that with W.E.B. DuBois founded Freedomways magazine; she remained as managing editor for 25 years. She is the co-editor of W.E.B. DuBois: Black Titan and Paul Robeson: The Great Forerunner.

The Tamiment Library/Wagner Labor Archives at NYU is a unique center for scholarly research on the history and culture of American activism and labor. Tamiment’s many collections document the history of anarchist, communist, labor, radical, feminist, and socialist movements in the U.S. from the Civil War to the present.

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