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The House by the Side of the RoadThe House by the Side of the Road

The Selma Civil Rights Movement

Richie Jean Sherrod Jackson

Narrated by Stephanie King

Available from Audible

Book published by University of Alabama Press

During the 1965 Selma voting rights campaign, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. set up informal headquarters at the home of Dr. Sullivan Jackson; his wife, Richie Jean; and their young daughter, Jawana. Dr. Jackson was an African American dentist in Selma, whose profession gave him some protection from economic reprisals, and he was one of the movement’s prominent local supporters. Richie Jean was a childhood friend of King’s wife, Coretta Scott King, who had grown up in the nearby town of Marion, and the King, Abernathy, and Jackson families were all very close.

In the dramatic and tension-filled months of 1965 that led up to the Voting rights March from Selma to Montgomery, King and other national leaders, including Ralph David Abernathy and John Lewis, held strategy sessions at the Jackson house and met with Assistant Attorney General John Doar to negotiate plans for the march. One of the most dramatic moments of that time occurred on Monday, March 15, when President Lyndon Johnson addressed a joint session of Congress. Huddled with his aides in Jackson’s living room, King was watching the speech on television when the president issued his call for a national dedication to equal rights for all.

When Johnson ended his speech with the words “We shall overcome,” King’s lieutenant C. T. Vivian looked across the Jackson living room and saw the mark of a tear on Dr. King’s cheek. Nobody in the room had ever before seen King weep. They had seen him worried or fretful, sometimes depressed, and more often they had watched him lead with humor and courage, his emotions always carefully in check. But on this night, as they sensed that the voting-rights victory was near, and as the president of the United States seemed to be adopting their cause as his own, King finally let his feelings flow.

This book is a firsthand account of the behind-the-scenes activity of King and his lieutenants—a mixture of stress, tension, dedication, and the personal interaction at the movement’s heart—told by Richie Jean Jackson, who carefully created a safe haven for the civil rights leaders and dealt with the innumerable demands of living in the eye of events that would forever change America.

Richie Jean Sherrod Jackson is a retired housewife still living in Selma, Alabama. Ms. Jackson earned a Bachelor of Science in secondary education at Alabama State College and a Masters of Education at the University of Montevallo.


“This book tells the story of a place, a time, and a people whose struggle and sacrifice helped this nation create a more perfect union. The house by the side of the road became a haven from the hostility raging all around us—from threats, jailings, beatings, and even death itself. It was a necessary stop for so many activists, and it is a necessary read for anyone interested in the Selma Movement.”

—John Lewis, congressman from Georgia

“The experience in Selma during the voting rights campaign would have been much more stressful and probably intolerable except for the gathering in the Jacksons’ home. This home, so full of love and warmth, gave us perseverance, patience, and determination to continue the day-to-day efforts to finish the task.... Thank God for this loving, faithful family. Their significance to the effectiveness of the movement is a tale that’s never been told. They put their own safety at risk to serve the common good.”

—Reverend Joseph Lowery, former Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) President

The House by the Side of the Road is a fine glimpse into history, not just the civil rights era, but ... the personalities of this era. It is the opposite of melodrama. It describes, in an almost nonchalant way, the rocks found on the porch (‘but didn’t even break any windows’) and how a KKK parade in front of the house ‘made only one pass.’ Because of this book, we know that the Rev. King’s cold was treated with red onion, honey, lemon, and ‘several teaspoons’ of whiskey. I love these details.”

—Rick Bragg, author of All Over but the Shoutin‚Äô and Somebody Told Me

“Jean Jackson has written a lovely memoir of a slice of her life in the Selma Civil Rights movement. She focuses on that historic moment of American history in which a group of people followed the teachings of Jesus about loving your neighbor and finally made America equal to the words of the founding fathers. She and her husband gave that effort essential succor. They did so with consummate grace, humility, and modesty. To have shared Jean's eggs, bacon, sausage, and grits with all of them in ‘the house by the side of the road’ would have been a delight. This memoir is powerful in its simplicity, history at its finest.”

—David W. Hodo, MD, Selma, Alabama

“Richie Jean Sherrod Jackson’s The House by the Side of the Road is a dazzling masterpiece composed of extraordinary events during the Selma Civil Rights Movement.... Her powerful story and authentic style impel readers of all races and creeds to experience an intimate glance into the thoughts and actions of our noble civil rights leaders. Jackson’s book illustrates that through the darkness and despair of many aftermaths, King continued to protest against the political corruption in Selma, thus creating equal rights for African Americans.”

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