Sample History Essays on The book “Jimmy Lee & James”

The book “Jimmy Lee & James, Two Lives, Two Deaths, and the Movement that Changed America” by Steve Fiffer and Adar Cohen is based on the killing of Jimmy Lee Jackson and Reverent James Reeb, among other civil rights activists. The book focuses on the lives of the two individuals, their roles in the civil rights movement, the events that led to their deaths, and the role of their deaths in promoting the civil rights movement. The two authors based their narration on the events that followed the death of Rev. Reed and Jackson, on accounts provided by witnesses and protesters who had survived the Selma-to-Montgomery matches. While the civil rights movement did not begin with the death of the two individuals, the book illustrates how their deaths pushed more people to support the already-strong movement to greater successes based on the need to ensure that the killers of the two men were brought to justice. The people’s commitment to ensure that the killers of the two men were brought to justice spurred the civil rights movement that people still rely on today to promote equality for all and fight injustices towards minorities in America.

Political Movement in the Book

The book addresses the difficulties that African Americans faced during the 1960s and their commitment to fighting for their rights through protests that were conducted to support the civil rights movement. In the first chapter, the authors narrate the difficulties African Americans faced while trying to register as voters, such as being asked complicated and random questions regarding the country and absurd topics before being registered. While African Americans outnumbered Whites in Alabama, very few Blacks were allowed to vote to ensure that their votes would not sway the political decisions made by the Whites. Other injustices directed towards the African Americans in the book included issuing Blacks with death sentences for minor crimes and shooting of innocent African Americans. Other governments from around the world disparaged the Alabama Supreme Court for their unjust treatment of African Americans after an African American who had stolen $1.95 from a White woman was sentenced to death (Fiffer and Cohen). These events fueled the civil rights movement and the need for African Americans to fight for their rights.

The individuals who participated in the political movement described in the book also focused on fighting against the unjust killings of innocent African Americans. The writers describe the events that took place on March 7, 1965, a day termed as “Blood Sunday,” because of the attacks that were directed towards peaceful demonstrators who were marching from Selma, Alabama, to Montgomery (Fiffer and Cohen). A few days before protesters began marching from Selma to Montgomery, Jimmie Lee Jackson, an African American man, had been shot by a trooper who claimed that he was defending himself from Jackson. The killing of Jackson was considered unjust because he was an unarmed deacon and a civil rights protester, who was only interested in pushing for better treatment of African Americans. His death motivated more African Americans to join the civil rights movement.

Aside from Jackson, other protesters were also killed in their attempt to fight against the injustices directed towards African Americans. Since Jackson was a civil rights protester, his death spurred other civil rights movement leaders who were in Selma to march to Montgomery, but the day ended in violence as the state troopers intervened and beat up helpless African American men and women. The local activist leaders called upon other civil rights protesters across the nation to join them in their next attempt, and one of the people who traveled to Salma was Rev. James Reed, a minister who had been working in Boston. Fiffer and Cohen describe how, shortly after his arrival, racist vigilantes attacked Rev. Reed (Fiffer and Cohen). The death of Rev. Reed and Jackson, who had played significant roles in the civil rights movement, galvanized the already strong civil rights movement that led to the deaths of more protesters on “Blood Sunday.”

Connection to Modern-Day Civil Rights Movement

The events narrated by Fiffer and Cohen in their book regarding the civil rights movement aligns with the continued protests and fights against America’s unjust justice system, which continues to favor Whites over African Americans and other minority races. Modern-day civil rights movements have been based on police brutality directed towards African Americans, unjust treatment of Blacks in courts, and discrimination directed towards other minority groups like Hispanics, Asians, and Muslims. The most recent death of an African American that led to civil rights protests occurred on May 25, 2020, after the death of George Floyd, who was arrested in Minneapolis and held down by the police in a choking position until he died (Hutchinson). The death of George Floyd fueled mass protests in the United States and other countries that stood against police brutality and mistreatment of African Americans in the U.S. Although the protesters conducted peaceful marches, police officers used violence while trying to disperse them (BBC News). The actions only led to the increased commitment of the protesters to support the civil rights movement by marching and sharing images and videos of police brutality against them on social network platforms.

The connection between the deaths of Rev. Reed and Jackson can also be seen through the killing of other African Americans by police officers in the United States and the harsh treatment of many protesters involved in the civil rights movement. For example, Eric Garner was choked to death in New York on July 17, 2014, because he the police suspected that he was selling cigarettes illegally (Hutchinson). Michael Brown, was killed the same year in August, because a police officer suspected that he had stolen some cigars. In November, Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy, was shot dead while he was playing with a toy gun at a park. Less than three months before George Floyd’s death, the police shot another African American, Breonna Taylor, eight times after they raided his home to search for drugs. While drugs were not found, she still faced an unjust death (BBC News). The deaths of these African Americans, among many others who have been accused falsely, judged harshly in justice systems, or killed, have spurred numerous protests in America.


While Fiffer and Cohen focused on the deaths of Rev. Reed and Jackson along with the events that supported the civil rights movement during the 1960s, recent marches have been driven by the increased exposure of mistreatment of African Americans and other minority communities in the United States. Advances in technology, such as online social network platforms, have also broadcasted and exposed the ill-treatment directed towards minority groups in the country. The events narrated in Fiffer and Cohen’s book correlate strongly with the modern-day civil rights movement.


Works Cited

BBC News. George Floyd: Timeline of Black Deaths Caused By Police. 26 June 2020.

Fiffer, Steve and Adar Cohen. Jimmie Lee & James: Two Lives, Two Deaths, and the Movement that Changed America. Regan Arts, 2015.

Hutchinson, Bill. From Eric Garner to George Floyd, 12 Black Lives Lost in Police Encounters That Stoked Mass Protests. ABC News. 6 June 2020.