Michael Jackson, seemingly on a self-appointed crusade for the rights of black artists, may have trouble finding sympathy among other members of the African-American music community, Billboard reports

Michael Jackson, seemingly on a self-appointed crusade for the rights of black artists, may have trouble finding sympathy among other members of the African-American music community, Billboard reports in its July 20 issue. As one high-level black executive says, "You could throw a dart at the R&B chart and find almost any artist who would have more resonance on this issue than Michael Jackson."

A multi-platinum black artist declined to comment specifically on the Jackson allegations but said of his own major-label dealings, "I think I've gotten a fair shake. Anything that happened negatively, I don't think had to do with the color of my skin."

But Jackson does have the support of activist Rev. Al Sharpton, who operates the National Action Network, and attorney Johnnie Cochran, who has assisted Jackson on legal matters for more than 10 years.

Jackson is accusing Sony, parent of Epic Records -- for whom Jackson has recorded for more than 20 years -- of not properly promoting his October release, "Invincible," because he is black. The album has sold 1.99 million units in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan, and a total of 5.1 million units worldwide, according to Sony. Sources say the album cost $30 million to make, and Sony spent an additional $25 million marketing the project.

Jackson personally attacked Sony Music Entertainment chairman Thomas D. Mottola during a July 6 rally, calling him racist and "devilish," while holding up a photo of Mottola with devil's horns drawn on it. In addition, Jackson turned his rally into a civil-rights campaign, adding that by supporting him, his fans were "fighting for all black people, dead or alive."

In a statement, Sony responded: "We were deeply offended by the outrageous comments Mr. Jackson made . . . We can only say that Sony Music spared no expense in creating a series of global marketing, promotion, and publicity campaigns in support of ["Invincible"]."

According to sources, Jackson's deal with Sony is up in 2004, and he will fulfill it by delivering a greatest-hits album featuring four new songs. A Sony rep says there is no release date set for such a project. Additionally, the rep says releasing more singles from "Invincible" is possible, "but no decision has been reached yet."

Jackson, Sharpton, Cochran, and Jackson's manager, Trudy Green, all declined to comment by deadline.