Law enforcement officers probably didn’t expect to be confronted by my great grandmother, Addie Jackson, when they arrived to evict her daughters, Marie and Virginia (my grandmother), from their Tarrytown, NY home. But that’s exactly what happened. And one officer left with the bruises to prove it.
Constable William Beekman alleged that Momma Addie “shoved him” and caused him to fall against a wall and tear ligaments in his left shoulder, according to an article in an early 1920s issue of the Tarrytown Daily News.
Beekman, who charged Momma Addie with assault, arrived in court “with his left shoulder and left side strapped with adhesive tape and his arm in a sling from injuries,” the article says.
The Constable learned the hard way that “Momma Don’t Take No Mess.”
My great grandmother Momma Addie with four of her five children: Marie, Beatrice, Clarence and (front) my grandmother Virginia. Circa 1912.
For the past 4-5 years, I’ve been researching my family history. I’ve written about a great-great grandmother who was a slave on a plantation in southwestern Virginia and lived to be 113 years old, and a great grandfather (her son) who helped to found a Baptist church in Tarrytown, NY and in the early 1900s was the chauffeur for the president of New York Central Railroad.
The central figure in my family history is my great grandmother Addie Wilkins Jackson (or “Momma Addie”). Born in Virginia in 1875, she was in the first wave of African-Americans to leave the South and migrate North following the Civil War. She settled in Tarrytown, NY and married my great grandfather, Clarence “Papa Jack” Jackson, in 1893.
As Black History Month comes to a close, I plan to use it as a springboard to telling the story of the contributions of “Momma Addie” and the children she raised.
“Some people think it is almost a crime to be a Negro. As for me, I am proud to belong to a race that has made such progress in fifty years of freedom, yes, and proud to belong to that race that, in spite of all abuse, has never known a traitor.”
— Beatrice H. Jackson, 1917
This fragment of a newspaper column written in 1917 by my great aunt, Beatrice Jackson, inspired my interest in learning more about my family history.
One of the inspirations for my interest in researching my family’s history was a fragment of a newspaper column I discovered among the articles, photos and other documents that I unearthed in my grandparents basement in 2009. The fragment, it turns out, was from a letter to the editor of the Tarrytown (N.Y.) Daily News written in 1917 by my great aunt, Beatrice Jackson. The letter, which ended with the words you see above, was written in response to the charge of treason that was being leveled against some of the black soldiers fighting for the U.S. in World War I.
I’d later uncover several other letters to the editor penned by my Aunt Beatrice, all of them displaying a very progressive racial and social
In the early 1900s, my great aunt Beatrice Jackson (pictured as a teenager) wrote several Letters to the Editor that were published in the Tarrytown (N.Y.) Daily News.
consciousness. That racial solidarity has emerged as a unifying theme as I’ve learned more about the lives of my ancestors. It also inspired my blog’s subtitle, “Lifting As We Climb.”
In future blogs, you’ll see that this theme of racial uplift was at the heart of the contributions of several of my ancestors, most notably Aunt Beatrice and my great grandmother, Addie Wilkins Jackson–or “Momma Addie” as she was affectionally called.