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Patricia W. & J. Douglas Perry Library
The Papers of A.B. Jackson
Alexander Brooks “A.B.” Jackson was born in New Haven, Connecticut on April 18, 1925 to an Irish mother and an African American father. Jackson spent most of his childhood inside due to asthma, but showed an interest in art at an early age. During his senior year of high-school, Jackson made a pen and ink drawing of William Lyons Phelps, a revered professor at Yale University, and an acquaintance of Jackson’s father. After seeing the drawing, Phelps scheduled a meeting between Jackson and the dean of Yale’s art school. Soon after his interview and portfolio review, Jackson was admitted in September, 1946. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting in 1953, and a Master of Fine Arts in graphic design in 1955.
Jackson worked for three years at the Watson-Manning Advertising Agency in Stratford, Connecticut as a designer before he began to focus on teaching. He worked briefly as an instructor at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1955, before moving to Norfolk, Virginia in 1956 to teach art at Norfolk State University. Jackson taught there for 10 years, and was chairman for one. In 1967, he joined Old Dominion College (later Old Dominion University) as a full-time professor in the art department and the school’s first black faculty member. While at Old Dominion, Jackson participated as a judge in numerous art shows while having several showcases of his own. He was also active in programs for underprivileged youth, including a three year federal Pell grant program to instruct and inspire high-school students of all backgrounds and ethnicities to pursue higher education in 1969.
As an artist, Jackson’s work focused primarily on painting and photography, though he also worked with both screen printing processes and sculpture. His work earned him various awards and showcases, in spite of the obstacles that racism presented for him. While Jackson was not a civil rights activist, he believed that art transcended race and was affiliated with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Jackson was also active in the Norfolk art community and was a member of the Norfolk Fine Arts Committee. He did art criticism feature writing for the Ledger-Star, the Virginian Pilot’s sister afternoon edition, as well as Sight and Sound magazine in Norfolk. His work is represented in the permanent collections of Yale University, Dartmouth College, Mint Museum of Fine Arts, and various other corporate and private collections.
In 1979, Jackson published his book, “As I See Ghent: A Visual Essay”, depicting the Ghent district of Norfolk, Virginia, where Jackson resided. The book is composed primarily of photographs and drawings done by Jackson and focuses on the details of Ghent that Jackson found inspiring. The book is reminiscent of Jackson’s series of paintings, entitled “The Porch People”, in which the subjects are anonymous sitters on their porches in Ghent. Jackson died March 23, 1981, at the age of 55. Following Jackson’s death, the Chrysler Museum held a three-site retrospective exhibition of his work. A local television station created a tribute, entitled “Wow, Look at That,” one of his trademark catch phrases, to commemorate him.
SCOPE AND CONTENTS
The contents of this collection include photographs taken and collected by Jackson of miscellaneous subjects, as well as photographs of his artwork and excerpts from his poetry. The collection’s contents are undated.
The collection is broken up into the following series: I. Artwork, II. Photographs, III. Miscellaneous.
Series I: Artwork: This series contains photographs of artwork done by Jackson. It contains photographs of individual pieces, as well as photos of Jackson’s work in a gallery setting. This series is organized alphabetically.
Series II: Photographs: This series contains photographs that were taken by or collected by Jackson of subjects such as places, people, and animals. This series is organized alphabetically.
Series III: Miscellaneous: This series contains receipts, notes, and writings by or given to Jackson. This series is organized alphabetically.
Gift of Ms. Ann Dearsley-Vernon
Open to researchers without restrictions. Questions on literary property rights should be directed to the Special Collections Librarian.
2 half-size document cases, 2 oversize boxes, and 1 document case box
Series I: Artwork
Folder 1: Art
Oversize Box 2
Item 1: “Veronica’s Veil”
Series II: Photographs
Item 2: Art students outside of a house
Oversize Box 3
Item 1: Children painting outside
Folder 1: Negatives: Animals and Farm Life
Folder 1: Peoples and Places
Series III: Miscellaneous
Folder 7: Notes and Receipts