This biographical sketch first appeared on the Online Biographical Dictionary of the Woman Suffrage Movement in the United States and appears here by courtesy of the publisher, Alexander Street.
By Priya Hay-Chatterjee, undergraduate student, University of Maryland
Baltimore City teacher & administrator, suffragist, and DuBois Circle member
Sarah R. Jackson was born in 1876 in Baltimore, Maryland, to Violet and Randall Jackson. She had three siblings: John Jackson, Algernon Jackson, and Minnie Jackson, later Minnie Sprigs. As far as we can tell, Jackson never married but was in 1930 the head of a household that included her sister’s six children: Andrew, 21, and Charles, 19, both laborers in a packing house, Frances, 17, Minnie, 15, Alice, 13, and James, 11.
Jackson graduated from the Baltimore Colored High School and remained devoted to her high school as the corresponding secretary for the Alumni Association of the Colored High School. Jackson was also devoted to her career as a teacher at various public schools for black children in Baltimore. In 1898 she was promoted from teaching at Colored Primary School to Colored Grammar School, and the Baltimore Sun reported subsequent promotions as well. In 1900, she became a member of the Ways and Means Committee of the Maryland Colored Teachers’ Association (MCTA). In 1903, Jackson became Assistant to the Vice President of Public School 103. Jackson also frequently spoke about her work as a teacher and administrator at local meetings of the MCTA and parents’ groups.
Jackson was active in the African American Christian community in Baltimore. She directed Sunday School programs and Christmas celebrations, often at the Bethel A.M.E. Church, and occasionally at other Baltimore City churches. In 1915, she also attended a conference of Sunday School workers to discuss workers’ problems at Bethel A.M.E Church. Her political involvement was also evident in her work with the Church, as she spoke before her colleagues and fellow churchgoers at Bethel A.M.E. Church in 1912 in support of Theodore Roosevelt’s candidacy for the presidency.
Philanthropy was important to Jackson. She donated to the India Famine Relief Fund and frequently suggested philanthropic projects to the DuBois Circle after she was inducted in 1907. The DuBois Circle was a literary and activist organization founded by the wives of men in Baltimore’s Niagara Movement. Some members of the Circle also joined the Baltimore chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People when it formed only a few years later. Partly at Jackson’s behest, the Circle did such charitable work as donating linens to local hospitals, which were frequently low on resources, and offered a scholarship annually to a Baltimore City senior high school student who had the best grades, artistic ability, and overall character.
Meetings of the DuBois Circle took place at individual members’ homes and usually consisted of a prayer, followed by one or two members reading or speaking about suffrage, anti-racist initiatives, black history, or black authors. Jackson gave such readings or speeches occasionally, discussing notable women’s roles in current civic movements. The DuBois Circle supported woman suffrage, which constitutes all we know about Jackson’s suffrage activism.
Jackson held various positions in the DuBois Circle over time, including service on the Executive Committee (1914-1917; 1919-1921) and Program Committee (1915-1917) and in the position of Corresponding Secretary (19361937). As Corresponding Secretary, Jackson was responsible for sending and receiving correspondence related to the group’s charitable activities, tracking attendance, and coordinating with other organizations.
Unfortunately, Jackson disappeared from the historical record in the late 1930s. Whether she died or moved out of Maryland is unclear.
A Meeting Largely Attended, Baltimore Afro-American, November 9, 1912, Proquest Historical Newspapers
Bethel A.M.E.S.S., Baltimore Afro-American, December 2, 1911, Proquest Historical Newspapers.
Colored High School Alumni, The Baltimore Sun, July 1, 1897, Proquest Historical Newspapers.
Colored Teachers Elect Officers, The Baltimore Sun, April 16, 1900, Proquest Historical Newspapers.
Conference of S.S. Workers: Prominent Visitors From Many Discuss Sunday School Workers’ Problems at Bethel A.M.E. Church, Baltimore Afro-American, July 3, 1915, Proquest Historical Newspapers.
Public Schools: Appointment of Teacher Under Civil-Service Rules Again Discussed,Baltimore Sun, October 19, 1898
The Groups and Details: Full List Of The Changes Affecting The Schools Of The City, Baltimore Sun, January 23, 1901, Proquest Historical Newspapers.
The India Famine Relief Fund Amounts to $7302.39, The Baltimore Sun, July 3, 1900, Proquest Historical Newspapers.
The Public Schools: Civil Service Question Again Before the Board For Repeal Indefinite Postponement But No Record Of The Sentiment of Members, Baltimore Sun, September 7, 1898, Proquest Historical Newspapers.
Ancestryheritagequest.com. 1920 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Census Place: Baltimore Ward 5, Baltimore (Independent City), Maryland; Roll: T625_659; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 57; FHL microfilm: 1241736 Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2010.
Ancestryheritagequest.com. 1930 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Census Place: Baltimore, Baltimore City, Maryland; Roll: T626_2667; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 0059; FHL microfilm: 2340585 Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc., 2002.
DuBois Circle Records, private collection.