Emory professor’s podcast honors civil rights ‘cold case’ widow
By April Hunt | Emory Report | Aug. 6, 2020
Sallie Nixon Zimmons (center), widow of Isaiah Nixon, poses with her daughter Dorothy Nixon Williams and Emory professor Hank Klibanoff.
“Buried Truths,” the award-winning podcast led by Emory College professor Hank Klibanoff, released a special episode this week honoring Sallie Nixon.
Nixon, who saw her husband Isaiah killed in 1948 for voting, died from COVID-19 on July 25. She was 96.
Known by her family as “Sallie Mama,” she and her daughter, Dorothy, were central to the first season of the podcast that explores racially motivated killings in Georgia during the civil rights era. The podcast, and Klibanoff’s undergraduate Georgia Civil Rights Cold Cases Project course on which it’s based, seeks to understand how and why such crimes went unpunished in the Jim Crow South.
“She’s the one who, when the white men started firing their guns at her husband, started yelling ‘Fall, Isaiah, fall,’” says Klibanoff, a Pulitzer Prize-winning professor of practice in Emory’s creative writing program. “She was something, to never break from all the insults and brutalities inflicted upon her.”
The special episode serves as an update of the podcast’s first season, which recounted the story of Isaiah Nixon, an African American husband and father of six who exercised his right to vote in rural Georgia in 1948 and was killed for doing so. When his family fled to Florida in the wake of the killing, his grave was lost to time, until it was discovered by a student in Klibanoff’s cold cases class in 2015.
The first season of the podcast, produced by Atlanta NPR station WABE, won a Robert F. Kennedy Award in 2019 and the prestigious Peabody Award in 2018. The second season, focused on the killing of A.C. Hall, won a regional Edward R. Murrow award in 2020.
“Buried Truths” will next investigate the February murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County, Georgia. The two-part series is scheduled to air later this summer. Following that, the podcast will take an in-depth look at the 1958 killing of James Brazier, due in 2021.