J. L. Chestnut

J. L. Chestnut
Born December 16, 1930
Selma, Alabama
Died September 30, 2008(2008-09-30) (aged 77)
Occupation Author, attorney, civil rights activist

J. L. Chestnut (December 16, 1930 – September 30, 2008)[1] was an author, attorney, and a figure in the Civil Rights Movement. He was the first African-American attorney in Selma, Alabama, and the author of the autobiographical book, Black in Selma, which chronicles the history of the Selma Voting Rights Movement, including the 1965 Selma to Montgomery marches and Bloody Sunday. The New York Times review of Chestnut's autobiography says that "As the paradoxical 'nigger lawyer,' Mr. Chestnut was in a privileged position to see into the souls of white folk."[2]

Chestnut was born in Selma, and attended Howard University Law School. He returned home as Selma's only black attorney, and represented civil rights demonstrators at trial there when the Selma Movement began in the 1960s.

In 1986, Chestnut was one of the founders of the New South Coalition, along with Birmingham, Alabama Mayor Richard Arrington, when the Alabama Democratic Party refused to endorse Jesse Jackson for president.[3]

In 1994, Chestnut was active in protesting the jailing of political activist Lyndon LaRouche. He was interviewed in the Tuscaloosa News saying that when he met LaRouche, "I told him that he might as well be black and in Alabama." [3]

He died, aged 77, of kidney failure, after an illness lasting several months in a hospital in Alabama.


  1. Weber, Bruce (2008-09-30). "J.L. Chestnut Jr., 77; Selma Lawyer and Early Leader in Civil Rights Movement". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-11-30.
  2. McWhorter, Diane (August 26, 1990). "Middle-Class Radical". The New York Times. New York.
  3. 1 2 Reeves, Jay, LaRouche Contact Shocks Judge England, The Tuscaloosa News, September 30, 1994

External links

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