SELMA, ALA., MARCH 2 -- Jesse L. Jackson came back to this civil rights battleground, seeking to enlist white support for his presidential candidacy and what he called "a crusade for economic justice and fairness."

As he campaigned in five states that will hold Democratic primaries or caucuses next week, Jackson picked up his first endorsement from a white statewide elected official in the South, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower.

But here, on the site of the "Bloody Sunday" voting-rights march that took place 23 years ago next week, and in his home town of Greenville, S.C., the signals were mixed on his progress toward duplicating the breakthroughs among white voters he achieved this past month in Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll of 1,121 likely Democratic voters taken Feb. 17-28 indicates that Jackson is not yet making major progress among southern whites. About 5 percent of the southern white Democrats polled said they support Jackson.

In his campaign here, an emotional highlight came when Selma Mayor Joe B. Smitherman, who had ordered the arrest of civil rights demonstrators 23 years ago, introduced Jackson at a rally of almost 2,000 supporters and walked with him through the city's ghetto.

After hearing Jackson decry the federal policies he blamed for the city's 2,000 units of substandard housing, Smitherman said, "Rev. Jackson has articulated the issues better than anyone else. They have cut off all our programs. . . . "

But Smitherman made it clear to reporters that he was not endorsing Jackson. And he declined the candidate's invitation to go with him from the ghetto to the Edmund Pettus bridge, a shrine of the civil rights movement since March 6, 1965, when state troopers and police killed a 15-year-old boy and severely injured scores of other people at the start of the Selma-to-Montgomery march for voting rights.

Out of Jackson's hearing, Smitherman said Jackson "will get a few white votes but not many. But so many whites may vacate the Democratic primary to vote for {George} Bush or {Pat} Robertson in the Republican primary, he {Jackson} may win."

Jackson's theme on a day that began before dawn in Greenville and included stops in Alabama, Texas, Mississippi and Arkansas was that in the New South, blacks and whites can put aside their old antagonisms and unite against the common enemies of drugs, poverty and "economic violence."

"Whenever they foreclose a farm or shut a factory," he said in Greenville, "they pull the plug and the lights go out. And when the lights go out, all of us, black and white and brown, look uncommonly alike."

If his message can strike the same chord in the 14 southern and border states voting next week (South Carolina's Democratic caucuses come four days after "Super Tuesday" voting in the other 13) and produce the double-digit percentage support from whites Jackson has gotten in most early-voting northern states, the expected black bloc vote would assure him of being the day's big winner.

Sitting Tuesday night in the living room of the comfortable Greenville home he bought for his mother and grandmother, Jackson, surrounded by oriental screens and vases, said he believes such a breakthrough is within reach.

"The real difference from the civil rights days is that then we were asking them {whites} to give up something to us. The voting power and political power we gained diluted their control. Affirmative action programs gave jobs to us but, they thought, took jobs from them. They thought, 'The blacks are our antagonists.'

"But when Chrysler closes a plant, those aren't civil rights demonstrators doing it. When the bank forecloses a farm, it's not blacks doing it," he said.

In Austin, Tex., Hightower, a likely 1990 Senate candidate, endorsed Jackson, saying that "the real heart of the Democratic Party. . . is hungry for the populist stew this man is serving up." Hightower said, "Frankly, it had not occurred to most populist leaders like me that our movement might become black-led, reaching out to whites, but there it is. It is time to accept the opportunity."

All day, Jackson sought other settings and metaphors that would reinforce that message -- but often to mixed effect.

Early in the morning, he drove to the Ware Shoals, S.C., dairy farm of Tom Trantham, a white leader of the United Farmers Organization. When Midwest farmers sent truckloads of hay to the drought-stricken South Carolina farmers in 1986, Jackson helped unload it at Trantham's farm and later returned for a "second Thanksgiving" to which the recipients had invited the donors.

Trantham delivered a breakfast-table lecture on the evils of corporate farming that gladdened Jackson's heart. But in the kitchen, neighbor Doug Tinsley, who was driven out of farming by the drought, told reporters that "Du Pont and Conoco got the first grain in here on their trucks."

Asked whether he is going to support Jackson, Tinsley said, "I don't really know. I generally go by what Strom Thurmond does. He's my man." Sen. Thurmond (R-S.C.) is supporting Sen. Robert J. Dole (Kan.) for the Republican nomination.

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------------- PRIMARIES/CAUCUSES--------------

Michigan, March 17........................ 17%

Illinois, March 20........................ 21%

New York, April 3......................... 26%

Pennsylvania, April 10.................... 16%

Arizona, April 14......................... 16%

Ohio, May 8............................... 16%

Oregon, May 15............................ 9%

California, June 5........................ 18%

New Jersey, June 5........................ 24%

SOURCE: Congressional Quarterly