Remembering Ida L. Jackson

Historic Prescott School turns 150 in 2019 and to help celebrate AAMLO will be occasionally blogging about the school's history. Sean Dickerson begins this week with the story of Ida Louise Jackson, Oakland’s first African American teacher, who taught at Prescott starting in 1925.

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.

Members of Rho Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority
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, Ruby Jefferson, 1921, African American Museum & Library at Oakland Photograph collection, MS 189, African American Museum & Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library.

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.

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.

Learn more at AAMLO with the Ida L. Jackson Papers that 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.