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The Search for Something Better

In the early 1980s I did logging work on the Lookout Ranch for the Shandel's of Comptche.  My impression was they had purchased the property from Ida Jackson, the proceeds of the sale were donated to the University Of California, and the late Jack June represented Ida Jackson in the sale.  I had heard Ida was black.  Bruce Anderson at one point had asked me if I knew anyone who might have known Ida Jackson, and her story. Since the newspaper that "should have no friends" had few/no friends in the old establishment Anderson Valley community, Jack June as a source was a nonstarter.  Jack was he only person I knew with a direct connection to Ida.  So that is where the story stayed until last June when the AVA ran an article about Ida Jackson

I e-mailed the article to various people I know who would potentially be interested.  Stuart Titus responded and told me he remembered Ida from when he was a young boy in the 1950s 1960s, and 70s.  She had been one of his family's neighbors on the Manchester side of Mountain View Road.  Stuart loaned me the book of her life story. I read the book because of my brief connection to the Lookout Ranch, and Ida Jackson's connection to Mendocino County.  The book is available on Amazon.

Ida Jackson was a teacher at heart, and a child prodigy. She started school at age three, when she also began teaching. She graduated from high school at age 12, and entered UC Berkeley at age 16.

Ida Jackson’s life is a story of an exceptionally talented, and ambitious black American with family roots in Southern slavery who struggled to gain acceptance, and the fruits of American freedom. She was an activist, and her actions were recognized nationally , and influenced and inspired the lives of thousands who had the same background. She had a presence at UC Berkeley, Tuskegee University, and Columbia University. She worked with a number of notable black activists of her era, which was the 1920s through the 1940s. Ida’s story spans the history of black Americans with roots in slavery from the Civil War, to the present. Her time in Oakland saw the emergence of trends we see today.

She was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1902. Her father, Pompey Jackson, had been 10 when the Civil War ended, and had spent his first years as a slave on a plantation in Southern Louisiana. Her mother was much younger, and mixed race being white, black, and American Indian. Both of Ida’s parents were educated, and instilled the need to be educated in their children, “Education is something whites can’t take away.” Pompey strove to be financially independent, so he would never be dependent on whites. His path to “being his own man” was the trades. He was an accomplished builder and his services in Vicksburg were in high demand, and provided a good income to support his large family. (Ironically, today, the trades remain the quickest route to financial independence.) Family and church were the anchor of Ida’s life. Her mother, father, and brothers were very supportive of her ambitions. The success of Ida Jackson came from a timeless model for freedom that today we call conservative; a strong family, the virtues rooted in faith, and an education.

Ida Jackson saw blacks as being just as capable as whites, and education was the key. So she strove to bring education to black children. Her largest struggle in life was with the Oakland school system; first to finally be hired as the first black teacher there, then a frustrating failure to being hired as a principal. In both positions she was imminently more qualified than anyone else in the system, she had to be, except she was black and shunned by the other mostly women teachers.

Stuart Titus told me she was someone “who could make things happen.” She was instrumental in bringing phone service to her area on Mountain View Road. In the end, what she brought to Oakland was herself, as a teacher who taught and inspired black children, including the author of this book. She broke the color barrier but failed to change the school system. 

I have wondered, maybe she would have been better served to start her own private school in Oakland, where anyone would be accepted who “wanted to learn, and could be taught”? She certainly would have been the one capable of doing this. Her fight with a government run system eventually exhausted her, resulting in her move to Mendocino County to raise sheep and cut redwood timber. Ida Jackson was a remarkable person, and her story is a classic American one. I wish I had known her. Get the book, it is certainly worth reading. There is also much about her on line, provided by the UC Berkeley Alumni Association.

On a personal note, the book makes reference to Sherwood Eddy, and Delta Cooperative Farm Group (p.174). Sherwood was a cousin of my grandfather, George Eddy Hollister. His mother was a sister to my grandfather’s mother. Their roots were in the anti-slave movement, and the Congregational church that existed in Leavenworth, Kansas before the Civil War. My grandfather’s mother’s maiden name was Norton. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sherwood_Eddy

One Comment

  1. George Hollister November 23, 2020

    I made a mistake here. Stuart Titus was born in 1960, so he only knew Ida from about the mid 1960s, on.

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