Biography / Administrative History
Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Ida L. Jackson papers
Collection number: MS 39
Jackson, Ida L., 1902-1996
1 linear foot
African American Museum & Library at Oakland (Oakland, Calif.)
Abstract: The Ida L. Jackson papers encompass certificates, pamphlets, programs, correspondence, and photographs documenting her activities
as the first African American public school teacher in Oakland and as the founder of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority on the West
Languages represented in the collection:
No access restrictions. Collection is open to the public.
Materials are for use in-library only, non-circulating.
Permission to publish from the Ida L. Jackson Papers must be obtained from the African American Museum & Library at Oakland.
Ida L. Jackson papers , MS 39, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library. Oakland, California.
Originally processed by Marianne Carden, 1995. Finding aid updated by Jennifer E. Johnson in 2006 and Sean Heyliger in 2013
and 2016 for additions.Oral history interviews transferred to the East Bay Negro Historical Society Records, MS 32, July 14.
Biography / Administrative History
Ida Louise Jackson (1902-1996) was born October 12, 1902 in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Jackson's father, Reverend Pompey Jackson,
was a former slave born in Alabama, and her mother, Nellie Jackson, was born in New Orleans. Jackson was the eighth and last
child born to Pompey Jackson and Nellie Jackson, their only girl. Raised in a family that emphasized education, Jackson graduated
from Cherry Street High School in 1914, and then attended Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi. After a short time at
Rust College, Jackson moved on to New Orleans University (now Dillard University), graduating in 1917 with a normal (teaching)
degree. Jackson's thesis at New Orleans University, entitled "Education as a means of permanent peace," reflects Jackson's
developing commitment to progress and empowerment through education.
Shortly after graduation, Jackson began to teach classes at Peck School, a division of New Orleans University. Later that
same year, Jackson and her mother left the South, following her brothers who had moved to Oakland, California. Once settled
in Oakland, Jackson continued her education, beginning courses at the University of California, Berkeley in 1920. At the time,
Jackson was one of only eight African American women and nine African American men enrolled at U.C. Berkeley. In 1921, while
attending U.C. Berkeley, Ida founded the Rho Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the oldest Greek-letter society for
African American women in the United States. Jackson would remain active with Alpha Kappa Alpha throughout her life. In 1922,
Jackson received an AB in vocational guidance, counseling and education. After being told by the Oakland Public School system
that she would need more education, she returned to U.C. Berkeley, earning her Master's degree in 1923.
After earning her Master's degree, Jackson was again denied a position with Oakland Public; this time they told her she required
more teaching experience. With this in mind, Jackson moved to the Imperial Valley, and began teaching at
East Side High School in El Centro, California, where parents of minority children had demanded a non-white teacher. Jackson
became the first African American woman to teach high school in California, and was certified by the state to do so. In 1925,
Jackson received a long term substitute position at the Prescott School, becoming the first African American woman to teach
in the integrated Oakland Public Schools. Early on, many teachers protested Jackson's employment; in effort to appease protestors,
the superintendent of schools assured them that Jackson's appointment was on a long term substitute basis. In the end, Jackson
taught in Oakland for 28 years. As Jackson's professional life grew, so did her commitment and involvement with
Alpha Kappa Alpha organization. In 1926 she attended a Boule in Columbus, Ohio, where she was elected to head the Far Western
Region, a post she held until 1953. By 1932, Jackson had reached the position of First Supreme Anti-Basileus, and then Supreme
Basileus from 1934-1936.
It was during this period of her life that Jackson's eyes were opened to another of her lifelong passions. In 1933, Jackson
attended a musical performance by youths from Mississippi, and was awakened to the plight of poor, rural African Americans
living in the Deep South. In 1934, Jackson organized the Alpha Kappa Alpha mobile health clinic in Lexington, Mississippi
to treat impoverished children. For nearly a decade, Jackson, along with volunteer doctors, nurses, dentists, and other educators
from Alpha Kappa Alpha, would travel to Mississippi to conduct mobile health clinics. During this period over 14,500 children
were immunized against diphtheria and smallpox, and adults were treated for malaria. Dental hygiene was also prioritized;
each child was given a new toothbrush with instructions for use. In the first summer alone, the clinic covered some 5,000
miles. In 1935, in addition to the mobile health clinics, Jackson organized and helped fund a six week summer school in Lexington,
Mississippi for rural African American teachers, and illiterate adults and children. It was about this time that Jackson's
humanitarian efforts were beginning to gamer national attention. In 1934, Franklin Delano Roosevelt invited Jackson to attend
the nation's Christmas tree lighting ceremony, and Mrs. Roosevelt invited Jackson to attend a conference at the White House,
where Mrs. Roosevelt became an honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha.
Around 1935, Jackson took leave from her teaching position in Oakland. During this period, Jackson attended Columbia University's
Teacher's College in New York, completing coursework towards a Ph.D. She also served as the Dean of
Women at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, and assisted Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune in the organization of the National Council of
Negro Women, of which Jackson was a life member. In 1953 Jackson retired from teaching in Oakland. She spent the better part
of the next two decades at her ranch in Mendocino County, California, until returning to Oakland in the 1970s.
In 1970, Jackson was a contributor to Irving Stone's book, There Was Light, a collection of essays by U.C. Berkeley alumni.
By 1971 Jackson was elected to the "Berkeley Fellows" honorary society, and in 1974 the American Association of University
Women, San Francisco branch, awarded a grant in her honor. In 1981 the NAACP named Jackson "Outstanding Woman 1981" at the
second annual Women's Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio. Ida Louise Jackson died on March 8, 1996.
Scope and Content of Collection
The Ida L. Jackson papers encompass certificates, pamphlets, programs, correspondence, and photographs documenting her activities
as the first African American public school teacher in Oakland and as the founder of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority on the west
coast. The papers also include an article written by Jackson for the National Association of College Women in 1935. Challenges
she encountered as an African American teacher are also revealed in correspondence. For example, a letter written to her regarding
her attendance at a National Education Association meeting in Miami Beach offers advice on handling possible discrimination
in housing arrangements. The papers also encompass a copy of her M.A. thesis discussing educational issues for African-American
Jackson's contributions as a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority are documented in pamphlets regarding the projects of the
Public Health Committee. Two copies of the sorority's newsletters, Ivy Leaf, summarize some of Jackson's accomplishments and
provide insight into the sorority's goals and activities. In addition, the papers include certificates and programs from specific
events in the sorority's history. A collection of photographs provides a visual record of Jackson's civic activities, participation
in sorority events, and family life.
Series I. Photographs
Series II. Personal papers
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in
the library's online public access catalog.
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.
Jackson, Ida Louise, 1902 - 1996.
African American teachers -- California -- Oakland.