Jackson T. Davis: Chalkboard Champion who Worked to Improve Educational Opportunities for African-Americans

jdavis_portrait[1]Many chalkboard champions work tirelessly on behalf of disenfranchised groups of students. This is certainly true of Jackson T. Davis, a remarkable educator who devoted his entire 45-year career to improving educational opportunities for African-American students here in the United States, and for Africans abroad.

Jackson T. Davis was born in Cumberland County, Virginia, on September 25, 1882. He attended public schools in Richmond, Virginia. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary in 1902 and his master’s degree from Columbia University in 1908. He was given an honorary law degree by the University of Richmond in 1930 and another by the College of William and Mary in 1931.

Following graduation from William and Mary, Jackson was was employed in a variety of high-profile positions where he dedicated his talents to improving the lives of students. He became the principal of the public schools of Williamsburg, Virginia. He also served as the assistant secretary of the YMCA in Roanoke, Virginia, from 1903 to 1904. During the 1904-1905 school year, he was principal of the public schools of Marion, Virginia, followed by a stint as the superintendent of schools in Henrico County, Virginia from 1905 to 1909. The next year, 1909-1910, this hardworking educator was a member of the state board of examiners and inspectors for the Virginia State Board of Education, and from 1910 to 1915 this forward-thinking individual was the state agent for African-American rural schools for the Virginia State Department of Education. In 1915, Jackson became affiliated with the General Education Board in New York, New York, as a field agent. Two years later he was transferred to New York City as the board’s general field agent, where he remained until 1929 when he was made the assistant director. He became the associate director in 1933, and the vice-president and then the director in 1946. During his many years associated with the General Education Board, Jackson’s work was focussed on education in the Southern states, and he used his influence to improve relations and understanding between whites and African-Americans. His pioneering work in promoting regional centers of education in the South tremendously significant.

Throughout his extensive career, Jackson specialized in Southern education, inter-racial problems, and education in the Belgian Congo and Liberia. In 1935 he traveled to Africa as a Carnegie visitor, and in 1944 he went again to that country as the leader of a group sent by the Foreign Missions Conference of North America, the British Conference of Missions, and the Phelps-Stokes Fund. Jackson served as a trustee of the Phelps-Stokes Fund, an organization devoted to African-American education and race relations, both in America and in Africa. He became vice-president of the Fund in 1940, and succeeded Anson Phelps Stokes as president in 1946.

At the time of his death in 1947, Jackson T. Davis was the president of the board of trustees of Booker T. Washington Institute in Liberia, the president of the New York State Colonization Society, a member of the Commission on Inter-Racial Cooperation, and of the Advisory Committee on Education in Liberia. He served as a member of the board of visitors of the College of William and Mary from 1913 to 1920, and as secretary of the International Education Board from 1923 to 1938. He was also frequently contributed articles for publication to educational journals.

This remarkable chalkboard champion passed away in Cartersville, Virginia, on April 15, 1947. In 1962, Jackson Davis Elementary School in Henrico County, Viriginia, was dedicated in his honor.