It’s hard to hear the story of Graham Jackson without feeling some sort of emotion. That’s part of the reason scholar David Cason spent five years researching Jackson’s life.

As one of the first Black musicians to play on national radio, Jackson is best known for the April 13, 1945, photograph of him mourning the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. But that image was only part of Jackson’s story. Through his research, Cason was able to document the ugly racial realities that Jackson and other Black Americans faced throughout the 20th century.

Though his specialty is teaching civil rights and social justice, Cason is unsure if he can tell Jackson’s complete story under a proposed law in North Dakota, where he is an assistant professor, that would make it illegal to teach anything that might make students feel guilt, anger or shame.

As Cason details here, the story of Jackson “involves all of these things.”

Also today:

Howard Manly

Race + Equity Editor

Chief Petty Officer Graham Jackson mourns the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt on April 13, 1945. Edward Clark/Life Magazine

I’ve spent 5 years researching the heroic life of Black musician Graham Jackson, but teaching his story could be illegal in Florida and North Dakota

David Cason, University of North Dakota

Jackson used his musical talents to overcome racial barriers in the United States. But telling Jackson’s story may not be legal under proposed laws restricting how race is taught.


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