This transcription has been completed. Contact us with corrections.
of figure drawing and became the president of the Art Club. He engaged in Dramatics and wrote articles for the school paper. He finished his high school days at the age 16 as president of the Senior Class and the school's most popular and radical orator. Jack drew the cover design on the Year Book-"The Spirit of Armstrong" (class of '31). His explanation of the two figures climbing upward, one with a torch, was : "The figure holding the torch represents the graduating student, bearing torch of knowledge, obtained at Armstrong; by means of its light he is able to aid his weaker brother as he climbs the ragged mountain of life, to attain the success which lies of the summit of the heights." His fellow student about him in the Class Prophecy, "Ah, his fame leaps over these walls, that is James Jackson, Jr." Boy Scout Leader During these years he acquired some local fame and national recognition as the organizer of the first troop of Negro boys to be admitted into the official Boy Scouts of America organization in Virginia. This was quite a victory against discrimination at that time, and quite a mature organizational feat for an 11-or 12-year-old boy. He later became the first Negro youth to attain the rank of Eagle Scout in the entire South. The then Governor of Virginia, John Garland Pollard, awarded him the Eagle Medal along with the white boys, in a ceremony in the lily-white John Marshall Hotel. Negroes attending the ceremonies had to enter the hall by way of the servants' entrance and the freight elevator! In spite of this humiliation, it was considered an eventful step forward. However, as it turned out, this event is remembered as the first time, and until recently the only time, that Negroes were allowed inside that "society" sanctuary of white supremacy, the John Marshall Hotel, in any capacity other than as servants. Following this eventful ceremony, my husband sat down and addressed a letter to the then Chief Scout Executive, James E. West, in which he attacked the Jim Crow set-up in the Boy Scout movement in America. He resigned from the Boy Scouts shortly after receiving a long, defensive reply from Mr. West. My husband's life and work are not the fevered product of an embittered and unhappy childhood as some would "explain." 16 [[end page]] [[start page]] Although his own family life was a relatively happy one, the very severity of the oppression of his people-disenfranchised, lynched, Jim Crowed-early taught him to struggle and organize for full freedom, equality, and opportunity for the Negro people. College Days [[line across page]] IN FEBRUARY of 1931, at 16, my husband entered Virginia Union University and was elected President of the Freshman class. The "youth of the slums" generally affected a scornful and hostile attitude toward the "college boys." They looked upon the students' cultured speech as a showy "putting on of airs" and a mockery of their own. They resented their better-drressed appearance, their singing and horseplay and derisively characterized them as thinking themselves "somewhat better than us." My husband shared this viewpoint for a while, rather ridiculously strained to keep himself "pure" of any real identification with the manners of the collegian. However, he soon saw the injustice of this one-sided view of the college student. He saw that the bulk of them weren't the "arrogant conceited asses" that he and his friends might call them, but hard-working young men and women, toiling at odd jobs after school hours and throughout the summer months; denying themselves the small pleasures, and along with their parents pinching and saving that they might buy the tools of a higher learning and "make something really worthwhile" out of their lives. It was the same old aspiration and struggle for freedom he had heard as a child from the lips of his father's friends at the back of the store. On Freshman Day, my husband made a speech in the college Chapel. In the speech, entitled, "The World Beyond the Campus," he painted a graphic picture of the stark realities of negro life in the city and he asked his fellow students to dedicate their lives to the people as the sole motive and justification for their more favored circumstances. 17