Ida Louise Jackson (1902-1996), A.B. '22, M.A. '23

Ida Louise Jackson

Ida Louise Jackson was born in 1902 in Vicksburg, Mississippi. The youngest of eight children and the only girl. She was a brilliant child who began to read at the age of three and graduated high school at the age of 14. Jackson first studied at Rust College for two years and then transferred as a senior for one additional year to New Orleans University (now Dillard) so that she could be near her Aunt Ida L. Young. She graduated in 1917 with what was called in those days a Normal Teaching Diplo

ma, which meant she was fully trained to be a teacher. In her oral history interview, Jackson tells of how her mother and father instilled in all of their children a sense of pride and self-worth, attributes that would normally be welcome and well received in any community. But, they spelled danger for African Americans in the Jim Crow South. It is also what compelled Ida Louise Jackson’s mother to send her sons out of the cesspool of Anti-Black violence that permeated Mississippi and on to Northern California. In 1918, Jackson and her mother joined them and they settled in the city of Berkeley.

Jackson enrolled in the University of California, Berkeley in 1920 earning her A.B in 1922. She applied for a teaching job in Oakland schools, but was told she was not qualified to teach. She returned to UC Berkeley and earned her M.A. in 1924. In 1925, she became the first African American teacher in the Oakland Public Schools. Her assignment to teach at Prescott School was at first met with protests and hostility. Her students, however, were fully supportive of her which helped her through that difficult period she later called, “the unpleasantries.” Jackson became National President of her sorority in 1934, and the same year she founded the Mississippi Health Project, bringing much needed medical attention to children and adults in rural areas of Mississippi via mobile clinics. In 1979, she donated her Mendocino ranch to UC Berkeley specifying that the proceeds be used as graduate fellowships for African American students pursuing their degrees. She died in 1996 at the age of 93. In 2004, the Ida Louise Jackson Graduate House was named in her honor.

(Photo of Ida Louise Jackson, Rho Chapter, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, courtesy of African American Museum and Library at Oakland, Oakland Public Library, Oakland, CA – University of California Collection)