Ida Jackson Reflects on Working Toward Peace

There was not much for a woman to do except teach, back then. I was the only black teacher [in Oakland, California] until about 1939.
[My father] was a math and geography genius and he worked with my brother and me so we would have an education. I had to go to private school because the only public school that admitted blacks was a city school outside of our limits. My brother got a job on a milk truck in a white area without my mom knowing. I was accepted into private school by a northern white woman and had graduated by age thirteen as one of the only blacks at the school.
My parents had taught us, "Never feel any man or woman is your superior just because he or she is white." When we came from school in the northern part of Vicksburg, Mississippi, the white kids would push us off the sidewalk and make us walk in the gutter. When my father learned about it, he told us, "Don't walk in the gutter. Stand and fight." We tied our books into straps and protected ourselves by putting hairpins in the books.

For some reason, white kids often get motivated to get an education, whereas black kids have not been encouraged to plan on attending college. Even today, many teachers fail to encourage black children to get an education, and not enough parents become familiar enough with the subjects their children study. In my days of teaching,
I found counselors who would encourage children to take general courses, rather than college preparatory courses, including chemistry, math, geometry, and the sciences.
Overall, I found most students during my era were capable of learning. Some did not show the same capacity as others, but everyone can learn to read and write.
A kid gets bored because he or she does not have any teaching on the values and fundamentals of an education. Many of the best-educated blacks come from homes of parents who had little or no education. Today, many black students still don't feel it's necessary to get an education, but a black child still needs to know more than a white to get the same type of job.
Everyone ought to make sure the black child is familiar with blacks who have become successful as role models. The parent is the first role model. As the parent lives, so will the child, and the use of drugs and alcohol in front of children is the worst thing that parents could do.
Our kids need to be taught not to accept drug monies and to work for what they get. All blacks have a responsibility to learn as much as possible and to correct children who are going astray.
Youth will suffer without the wisdom of their elders. I do believe that blacks ought to band together to fight drugs that are being passed on to our children. And parents must live so children will respect and listen to them.

A Note From Photographer Michael Collopy

Growing up in the Bay Area, I had always admired the profound achievements of Ida Jackson, a true champion of education, health care, and civil rights. As the first accredited black high school teacher in California, Ida achieved great success, despite the constant obstacles of racial discrimination. Rarely taking credit for her own accomplishments, she frequently cited her older brother's enormous personal sacrifices in raising her.
A couple years after this photo was taken, Ida was mugged in her home. She was knocked unconscious and found by friends days later. The thieves took many valuables, including the rings she is wearing here. Asked whether she knew the intruders, she admitted that she had a good idea who it was, but that her jewelry were mere possessions and unimportant to her. She never pressed charges.-M.C



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