Presentation to AAUW meeting focuses on women’s suffrage movement, Harriet Tubman

In February 2022, I was invited to make a presentation to the annual diversity brunch hosted by the Rockland County (NY) chapter of the American Association of University of Women. There were about 150 people on the Zoom call. While the focus of the presentation was my family history research, I used the occasion to highlight some of the Black women who (along with my great grandmother Addie Jackson and great aunt Beatrice Jackson) helped win voting rights for women in New York state in 1917. Those women included Empire State Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs leaders and activists Mary B. Talbert, Maria C. Lawton and Minnie Brown.

I also shared background, including newspaper articles, on the significant role that the women’s federation played in caring for Harriet Tubman during the last years of her life. In addition to her other contributions, Tubman was an outspoken advocate for women’s suffrage.

A fruitful year of family history presentations

The past year has been extremely fruitful. I’ve had several opportunities to make presentations about my family history. Not so ironically, the first opportunity was on Juneteenth 2021 when I was invited to make a Zoom presentation at the monthly meeting of the DC chapter of the African American Historical & Genealogical Society (AAHGS). About 50 AAHGS members were on the call for my PowerPoint presentation.

That was followed by a July 17 in-person presentation to the Nelson County (VA) Historical Society. Nelson County is where my great-great grandmother Lucy Ann Jackson was enslaved on the Rodes and Harris plantations until emancipation in 1865. I shared information about life for enslaved people in Nelson County in the early 1800s as well as published comments about plantation life made by Lucy Ann, who moved to New York state in the late 1800s and lived to be 113 years old.

Here’s the article:

Roger Glass stands in front of a photo of his great-great grandmother Lucy Ann Jackson at the Nelson County Heritage Center on July 18 2021. | Nick Cropper Photos, Nelson County Times

By Nick Cropper

A hundred and fifty was a number that has been on Roger S. Glass’ mind as of late. It was roughly 150 years ago that his ancestors left Nelson County in the aftermath of the Civil War.

Glass on July 18 shared the story of his family’s legacy at the Nelson Heritage Center, including a former enslaved woman with ties to Nelson County, most of which he gleaned from a single family scrapbook dating back to about the early 20th century.

As Glass described it, the scrapbook which he happened upon in the basement of his parent’s home in Tarrytown, New York, roughly 11 years ago, is rich in newspaper clippings, photographs and other documents.

The findings paint a “pretty thorough” picture of his ancestors and their work toward social, racial and political activism.

“It’s a treasure to me,” Glass said, adding the discovery of the scrapbook would spark his interest in researching his lineage.

Dozens filled the auditorium of the Nelson Heritage Center — which served as the county’s former segregated high school until integration in the late 1960s — to hear of Lucy Ann Jackson, a former enslaved woman with ties to Nelson County who would go on to live to be older than 100 years old and claim the title of America’s oldest voter in 1936.

She registered to vote that same year and was believed to be as old as 114.

Jackson, having received an education from an early age, had a “spillover effect” on future generations to come and forged a legacy of advocating for Black communities that would be carried on her decedents, according to Glass, a former president of the Washington Association of Black Journalists and Jackson’s great-great-grandson.

For Glass, his great-great grandmother’s legacy demonstrates the importance of education, being socially and politically active and raising up others who were not afforded the same luxuries.

The Sunday-afternoon event marked a return to form for the Nelson County Historical Society as the nonprofit resumed its programs that had been put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Debbie Harvey, president of the historical society, said the event was a “long time coming” as officials initially had planned the program for June 2020.

According to the Nelson County Historical Society, Lucy Ann Jackson was enslaved in Nelson County until after the Civil War. She initially worked on the county’s Rhodes Plantation, which Harvey said she believed was located toward the Afton area, before later being sent to a plantation owned by Col. James Harris, whose family was one of the original settlers in the county.

“This is a very important, I think, distinction,” Glass said. “The noun slave implies that she was, at her core, a slave. The adjective enslaved reveals that, though in bondage, bondage is not her core existence. She was enslaved, but her essence was not a slave.”

Post Civil War, she and her husband, Squire, moved to Basic City — now Waynesboro — and eventually migrated to New York State in the late 1800s at the behest of her family.

During her time on the Rhodes Plantation, Lucy Ann Jackson received an education, in her own words, from the Rhodes family who taught her “from the cradle,” which she was quoted as saying in a 1936 article published in a Tarrytown newspaper.

“My great-great-grandmother was privileged, I believe,” Glass said. “I’m quite proud of the fact that I can look back and say that’s where we were fortunate enough to get started in our learning, if you will.”

Clarence Jackson, or “Papa Jack,” the firstborn of Lucy Ann and Squire Jackson and Glass’ great grandfather, moved to Tarrytown, New York, around 1885, Glass estimated, and was integral in forming a Baptist church there. He also was the personal assistant to different railroad magnets for 42 years.

Addie Jackson, or “Mamma Addie,” was a strong-willed woman who dedicated to the welfare of her race and was “the colored spokesperson for the town of Tarrytown,” Glass said.

She advocated for recreational opportunities for the Black community. The city later formed a recreation center a few years later, to which she was elected president.

“They just didn’t talk about the needs of the colored community in Tarrytown, they acted on it and Mamma Addie was one of the leaders.”

“They just didn’t talk about the needs of the colored community in Tarrytown, they acted on it and Mamma Addie was one of the leaders,” Glass said.

Mamma Addie also formed a Red Cross chapter in her living room to ensure knitted goods were being given to Black soldiers during World War I. She served as a Republican party activist and president of the town’s Black Republican committee.

Glass also spoke of Beatrice Jackson, the first Black girl to graduate form Washington Irvin High School in Tarrytown. She was a performer and an avid defender of the Black community and often wrote editorials she would send to the local newspaper.

She died at the age of 28.

“It was regrettable because of all that she was capable of doing,” Glass said. “She was awesome. I can say that not because I was a part of her family, but because I know her.”

A history buff herself, Joy Loving, of Roseland, said the story of Beatrice Jackson and everything she had done for the Black community resonated with her in particular.

“I feel like so few of us know our history,” Loving said. “I wish I would hear more stories just like this that shows the impact one person had on every generation because Lucy Ann really like set the precedent for everyone in the Jackson family.”

Harvey said it was well worth the many months to hear the story of the Jackson family.

“I think the other advice is to go home and check your basements and your attics because you never know what riches you may find there,” Harvey said.

Before coming into his possession, Glass said he believed the scrapbook was repurposed by Mamma Addie. He noted the various photos and newspaper clippings concealed financial statements from the Empire State Colored Women’s Club and Mamma Addie was the club’s financial secretary.

Although the scrapbook paints a thorough picture, it is not complete. Glass said he is missing context for a lot of the photos found in the book and unfortunately a lot of family members who could have provided the much-needed context are now dead.

“I had to kind of stitch some things together but that scrapbook has been a remarkable source of information and inspiration for me,” Glass said.

While she would go on to claim the title of oldest living voter and is believed to have lived to be 114, Glass said there is potentially a roughly seven-year discrepancy in Lucy Ann Jackson’s actual age, depending on the source.

“I have different research that shows she was closer to 107,” Glass said. “That’s part of the struggle in researching family history, but for sure she lived to be over a hundred and for sure her legacy has endured.”

Momma Addie helps win voting rights for women in New York state

In August 2019, the Washington Informer newspaper published an article I wrote on the role that black women played in winning voting rights for women in New York state. My great grandmother, Addie Jackson, was one of the black women at the forefront of that effort. She’s singled out in a recent book on the women’s suffrage movement in NYS. Here’s the full Washington Informer article.

Screen Shot 2020-02-17 at 5.26.02 PM

By Roger S. Glass

When voters in New York rejected a 1915 measure that would have given women in that state the right to vote an undaunted coalition of the state’s suffragist groups didn’t skip a beat. Led by the National American Woman Suffrage Association, they immediately began preparing for another referendum.

Two years later, in what is widely considered a watershed moment in the women’s suffrage movement, voters in New York state approved a referendum giving women there voting rights.

“Historians of the national suffrage movement suggest that the New York passage marked a pivotal point in the struggle for women’s votes because once New York enfranchised its female citizens, the emphasis of the movement shifted away from state-by-state campaigns to the federal campaign,” Susan Goodier and Karen Pastorello wrote in their 2017 book, “Women Will Vote: Winning Suffrage in New York State.”


Great grandmother Addie Jackson

The coalition that came together to win voting rights for women in New York state included the Negro Women’s Business League and the Empire State Federation of Women’s Clubs, an affiliate of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs (NACWC).

“Virtually every African American women’s club in the state advocated for suffrage regardless of the ostensible purpose of the organization. Black women, like white women, saw the vote as a panacea, able to solve their specific problems relating to racial violence, education, employment, and workers’ rights,” Goodier and Pastorello wrote in the introduction to their book.

My great-grandmother, Addie Jackson, was an active member of the Empire State Federation of Women’s Clubs, serving for several years as the organization’s financial secretary in the early 1900s. Goodier and Pastorello had this to say about my great grandmother in their book.  “Any study of women of color confounds our understanding of class. The suffrage activist Addie Jackson, for example, took in washing and ironing, ‘day’s work,’ or housecleaning, in the Brooklyn area during the 1880s. Her class status improved significantly over the decades, as illustrated by her mobility and volunteerism.

“By the 1910s she lived in Tarrytown, and the New York Age noted her as a participant in a number of activities related to suffrage and other activism. She also attended the fifth annual meeting of the Empire State Federation of Women’s Clubs in Buffalo for a two-day session in July 1913. Members of the club made sure that the New York Age announced its support for woman suffrage.”

beatrice poll watcher

Aunt Beatrice Jackson’s 1917 Woman Suffrage Party registration card

In preparation for the 1917 vote, suffragists and their male supporters spread out across New York City and the state of New York to campaign for the referendum. One of the black women who registered to work on behalf of the Woman Suffrage Party was Addie Jackson’s daughter, my great aunt Beatrice Jackson.

Though just 22 years old at the time, Aunt Beatrice understood the significant role that black people could — and would — play in the suffrage movement. She wrote this in a Letter to the Editor published in the Tarrytown (N.Y.) Daily News. The letter was in response to blacks not being allowed to participate in a local Y.M.C.A. talent show.

“Every nationality was represented in the show except the negro. In fact the negro is never thought of until election. The negroes’ vote can decide suffrage. They were not needed for the show, but their vote is.”

On Nov. 6, 1917, Aunt Beatrice was a poll watcher for the suffrage party at an elementary school in Harlem, NY. On that day, a measure that would amend the New York state constitution and give women the right to vote won by 113, 000 votes.

“When New York women won the right to vote in 1917, they changed the national political landscape. The victory was a critical tipping point on the road to a constitutional amendment,”Huffington Post contributor Louise Bernikow, who has written extensively about the campaign to gain voting rights for women in New York state, told the blog New York Rediscovered.

A graduate of Howard University, Roger S. Glass is a former staffer for the Washington Afro-American newspaper. He recently retired after more than 30 years as a writer and editor for the American Federation of Teachers. 

Great-great grandmother featured in N.Y. Times 1619 Project

NYT 1619 entry copy 2A piece of my family history was recently included in the New York Times’ 1619 Project. My entry (posted below) is a 1936 newspaper article about my great-great grandmother Lucy Ann Jackson. Enslaved on a plantation in southwest Virginia until shortly after the Civil War, my great-great grandmother was identified in that 1936 article as the nation’s “oldest voter” at the age of 114.

Lucy Ann J article - 1936American slavery is said to have begun in August of 1619 when a ship carrying 20 enslaved Africans arrived in Virginia. The 1619 Project recognizes the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery and highlights the many contributions of the enslaved African–and those that followed in their footsteps.


Momma Don’t Take No Mess!

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.

Momma no mess finalConstable 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.”

An Advocate for Baltimore’s Black Youth

When my great uncle Clarence Channing Jackson Jr. took a position with the Baltimounc chan youngre Department of Recreation in 1929 he made clear that his top priority was creating more recreational opportunities for the city’s black youth.

“I used every trick in the trade, every trick that I could command to gain facilities and opportunities” for black youth, Uncle Chan told a Baltimore newspaper. This included working with the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper to push for turning vacant lots into playing areas for black children.

uncle chan & mayor

Clarence Channing Jackson Jr. (Uncle Chan) joins the mayor of Baltimore at a playground dedication in the city’s Druid Hill Park section (circa 1935). “Mr. Jackson organized much of the first amateur sports activities for black Baltimoreans” an article said.

“As soon as he came to the city Mr. Jackson was given responsibility for the recreational activities of all the Negro children and their sports programs,” a 1963 Baltimore Sun article said.

Uncle Chan would go on to become the first black supervisor in the city’s Department of Recreation. Jackson “organized much of the first amateur sports activities for black Baltimoreans,” a  newspaper article said following his death in 1972.

cc jackson rec center-inside

In 1977, the city honored Uncle Chan with the opening of the “C.C. Jackson Recreation Center” in north Baltimore. A proclamation issued at the building’s dedication said this about Uncle Chan: “He fought for expansion of opportunity for black children with tenacity blended with wisdom.”

In 1977, the city honored Uncle Chan with the opening of the “C.C. Jackson Recreation Center” in north Baltimore. A proclamation issued at the building’s dedication said this about Uncle Chan: “He fought for expansion of opportunity for black children with tenacity blended with wisdom.”

Ironically, though not surprisingly, a half-century earlier Uncle Chan’s mother, Addie Jackson, had argued for more recreational opportunities for black youth in Tarrytown, NY where Uncle Chan was born and raised.Screen Shot 2019-01-31 at 10.40.47 PM

Addressing an advisory group set up in the early 1900s to make recommendations for improving the village, Momma Addie said this: ‘There is no recreation for colored boys and girls in Tarrytown. The civic league does wonderful work, but outside of that there is no means of recreation provided for us.”

unc chan runs track



A Legendary High School Athlete

In the early 1920’s, Uncle Chan was a legendary high school athlete at Washington Irving High School in Tarrytown, NY., where he starred in football and track and field.

A 1961 newspaper article in the Tarrytown Daily News (N.Y.) recalled this headline from a Nov. 24, 1921 issue of the paper: “Chan Jackson Makes 65-Yard Run for Touchdown.”

“It was a common occurrence for young Jackson to make exceptional long runs and win games within seconds of the final period,” the article says.


Uncle Chan with his sons Clarence Channing Jackson III and Douglas.

His “terrific burst of speed and his ability to twist, turn, weave and dodge were executed quicker than the bat of an eyelid.”

Upon his graduation from Washington Irving in 1922, a newspaper editorial said this: “We are frank to admit that it will be some years before another Jackson is discovered. He is a wonder-athlete.”


Uncle Chan’s wife, Aunt Lucille.

Uncle Chan went on to star in track at Springfield College in Massachusetts and would later coach the first women’s track team to compete internationally.

While in college, Uncle Chan worked as a “red cap” at Grand Central Station in New York City during summer recess and the holidays. He would later call it a “tremendous experience” where he met famous people from around the world, learned about various people and their personalities, and watched gangsters being “taken up the river” to Sing Sing Prison.


Clarence Channing Jackson Jr. is honored at a dinner in Tarrytown, NY where he was hailed as one of the greatest athletes ever at the town’s Washington Irving High School.


Clarence Channing Jackson Jr. saved his best and most important victories for the 1930s, 40s and ‘50s when he was a supervisor in Baltimore’s Department of Recreation. It was there that Uncle Chan used his talents and upbringing to fight segregation and create unprecedented opportunities for Baltimore’s black kids and families. And thus build on a tradition of racial solidarity and activism modeled by his mother and my great grandmother, Addie Jackson, and other members of our family.


Warming the Hands—and Hearts—of Black Soldiers

My great grandmother never missed an opportunity to support her race—often going the extra mile to do

When Americans were encouraged to knit items for the troops during World War I my great grandmother, Addie Jackson, and her daughters—my grandmother Virginia and my aunt Marie—knitted socks, scarves and gloves for the servicemen.

“During World War I Americans of all ages were asked by the United States government to knit wool socks, sweaters, and other garments to warm American soldiers at home and abroad,” an article on says.

369th infantry-knitted items'

Members of the 369th Infantry Regiment from Harlem, NY during World War I. My family knitted socks, gloves and scarves for the regiment and other black soldiers.

“On Sundays in those days everyone would make a pair of socks and there’d be at least four pairs of socks by the end of the day and gloves and scarves by the end of the week,” my Aunt Marie said in a 1981 article published in the Tarrytown (N.Y.) Daily News.

However, when Momma Addie discovered the black soldiers were not being sent these clothing items, she started a Red Cross chapter in her Tarrytown, NY home, and began knitting and sending scarves, gloves and socks to the black troops.

black girls knitting - Hampton, VA

Young black girls in Hampton, Virginia knit scarves, socks and other items for the World War I troops.

“We started the Red Cross in Tarrytown because it (the Red Cross) was segregated in those days,” my grandmother told the Tarrytown newspaper. “They wouldn’t take blacks and there were blacks fighting in the 369th Regiment. So mother started the Red Cross in our home.”

The 369th Infantry Regiment out of Harlem, NY had trained for battle in nearby Peekskill, NY, and my family knew some of its members. These were the black soldiers my great grandmother and her daughters had in mind when they started the Red Cross chapter in 1914.

Discovering an Unknown Gravesite

Surprise and frustration. That’s the only way to describe my feelings when I found out a few years ago that my great-great grandmother, Lucy Ann Jackson, who was born into slavery in Nelson Co., VA, my great-grandfather Clarence “Papa Jack” Jackson Sr., and my great-grandmother Addie “Momma Addie” Jackson were buried in Tarrytown’s Sleepy Hollow Cemetery—not far from the gravesites of my grandparents and other relatives.

jackson headstone w: rg

Honoring the gravesite of my great-great grandmother and great grandparents

If I had known that these other ancestors were buried elsewhere in the same cemetery, I certainly would have visited their gravesite to reflect and leave flowers, just as I often did at the gravesite of my grandparents.

My grandparents—Henry and Virginia Nelson—were buried in the Lone Valley section of the cemetery, but I wanted to locate the graves of my great-great grandmother and great-grandparents who were buried in the Macpelah section. My first visit to the Macpelah section in May 2010 ended in frustration as the cemetery’s superintendent, Andrew Cupak, and I were unable to find my ancestors’ burial site. I wanted to make sure their grave had a proper headstone—and I wanted to leave a token of my love and appreciation. These were, after all, ancestors who, in the early 1900s, had been leaders of Tarrytown’s “colored” community—and who had become a tremendous source of pride and inspiration for me in recent years.

jackson headstone3 w: supt

Former Sleepy Hollow Cemetery Superintendent Andrew Cupak

Before I left that the cemetery that May day, Superintendent Cupak vowed to find my ancestors’ gravesite. When I returned 4-5 months later he had indeed found their burial site—and there was a headstone that he had had cleaned to ensure that it was in top condition when I saw it. I appreciated the superintendent’s efforts—and I was thrilled to finally be able to see, care for and honor my ancestors’ final resting place.

While this search for my ancestors’ gravesites ended a chapter of my pursuit of my family’s history, it also intensified a new one. Now, I was even more determined to learn more about what I consider some fairly remarkable ancestors, including a great-great grandmother who lived to be 114, a great-grandfather who in the early 1900s served as the personal assistant to the president of New York Central Railway, and great grandmother who was a political activist, a community leader and a respected spokesperson for Tarrytown’s “colored” people.