On the anniversary of Ida L. Jackson's birth (October 12, 1902), AAMLO celebrates her commitment to progress and empowerment through education.
In 1921, while attending U.C. Berkeley (at the time one of only eight African American women students), Jackson founded the Rho Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, the oldest Greek-letter society for African American women in the United States. 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.
For nearly a decade, beginning in 1934, 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. 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.
Learn more at AAMLO with the Ida L. Jackson Papers which include 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.
An interview with Ida L. Jackson by Dr. Lawrence P. Crouchett, director of the Northern California Center for Afro-American History & Life (NCCAAHL), directed by filmmaker Marlon Riggs, may also be viewed on our digital collections at the Internet Archive.
Image (1): Portrait of teacher Ida Jackson (circa 1980s), African American Museum & Library at Oakland Photograph Collection
Image (2): Members of Rho Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, University of California, Berkeley (left-right): Virginia Stephens, Oreatheal Richardson, Myrtle Price (in back), Ida Jackson (sorority president), Talma Brooks, and Ruby Jefferson (1921), African American Museum & Library at Oakland Photograph Collection
Image: Mrs. Henry's class holding up P-r-e-s-c-o-t-t sign at Prescott School centennial ceremony (1969) African American Museum & Library at Oakland Photograph Collection