Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wallace Van Jackson: Professor and Award-Winning Librarian

Wallace M. Van Jackson (1900-1982), was the first African American to receive the American Library Association's Centennial Award. A native of Richmond, Virginia, Wallace Van Jackson was the son of Janet and William Van Jackson. He received his undergraduate degree in sociology from Virginia Union University in 1934; his Bachelor of Library Science (BLS) from the Hampton Institute Library School in 1934; and his Master of Arts in Library  Science from the University of Michigan in 1935. He also studied at the University of Chicago. In addition, Mr. Van Jackson was a member of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the Texas Library Association, the Librarians Club of Atlanta, and the fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha. He served as a member of the American Library Association Intellectual Freedom Committee, and as a councilor on the American Library Association Council. Before entering the field of librarianship, he was the principal of the Scottsville Elementary School in Scottsville, Virginia.

In 1927, Wallace Van Jackson was appointed to serve as the head librarian at Virginia Union University. In 1941, he accepted a position as a library science professor at Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia. Van Jackson later became the university's first African American library director. He remained at Atlanta University until 1947 (Atlanta University is now Clark-Atlanta University). After leaving Atlanta University, Mr. Van Jackson held positions at Texas Southern University, the Hampton Institute (now Hampton University), Alabama State College (now Alabama State University), the National Library of Nigeria, the University of Botswana, Mary Holmes College (now closed), and the United States Information Service (USIS) Library in Liberia.

Wallace Van Jackson was one of several keynote speakers at the Second Negro Library Conference held November 20-23, 1930 in Nashville, Tennessee at Fisk University. He was also instrumental in bringing attention to the segregation and discrimination faced by African American attendees of the 1936 American Library Association Conference in Richmond, Virginia. Because of the segregation laws enforced in Virginia during this time, African Americans were not allowed to stay at the conference hotel, eat at the dining sessions, or visit the exhibits. Mr. Van Jackson wrote letters expressing his thoughts and concerns, and sent them to be published in Library Journal, a professional journal for librarians.  His letters generated numerous responses from readers, many of them in agreement with Van Jackson that discrimination and segregation should not be tolerated at meetings and conferences. The unfortunate events in Richmond, Virginia  prompted the American Library Association (ALA) to enact a resolution to never hold any of its conferences in cities that discriminate against any of its members because of their race. It also forbade any state affiliate that practiced racism to become an affiliate of ALA.

Wallace Van Jackson became an honorary life member of the Virginia Library Association in 1972. Four years later in 1976, he was awarded the American Library Association's Centennial Award. Wallace Van Jackson passed away in 1982 at the age of 82 in Richmond, Virginia.

Related posts: A Brief History of Conferences for African American Librarians: The First and Second Negro Library Conferences ; ALA History: 1936 American Library Association Meeting in Richmond, Virginia.

Sources:  "Jackson, Wallace Van." A Directory of Negro Graduates of Accredited Library Schools, 1900-1936. Washington: The Columbia Civic Library Association, 1937. 14. Print. ; Caster, Lillie Daly. " A Special Person: Wallace M. Van Jackson - Librarian, Black Man, Citizen." The Black Librarian in the Southeast: Reminiscences, Activities, Challenges. Ed. Annette L. Phinazee. Durham: NCCU School of Library Science, 1980. 259-274. Print. ; Jones, Virginia Lacy. "A Dean's Career." The Black Librarian in America. Ed. E.J. Josey. Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1970. 33-34. Print. ; "Records of the Library." Virginia Union University Library. Virginia Union University Library, Sept. 1997. Web. 19 Dec. 2010. ; Battles, David M. The History of Public Library Access for African Americans in the South or, Leaving Behind the Plow. Lanham: Scarecrow, 2009. 80. Print. ; Jordan, Casper and E.J. Josey. "A Chronology of Events in Black Librarianship." Handbook of Black Librarianship. Ed. E.J. Josey and Marva L. DeLoach. 2nd ed. Lanham; Scarecrow, 2000. 7, 13. Print. ; "Va. Union Gets New Librarian." The Afro-American(Baltimore, Md.)  21 Feb. 1942: 11.Print. ; Barcus, Thomas R. "Incidental Duties of the College Librarian." College and Research Libraries (Jan. 1946): 21. Print. ; "Wallace Van Jackson." United States Social Security Death Index., n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2014. ; "Wallace V.M. Jackson[i.e. Wallace M. Van Jackson]." Virginia,  Births and Christenings: 1853-1917., n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2014. ; "Wallace Van Jackson." United States Census, 1920., n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2014. ; Grant, George C., comp. "Van Jackson, Wallace." The Directory of Ethnic Professionals in LIS (Library and Information Science). Winter Park, FL : Four-G Publishers, Inc., 1991. 231. Print. ; Jones, Reinette. Library Service to African Americans in Kentucky: From the Reconstruction Era to the 1960s. Jefferson: McFarland, 2006. 134. Print. ; Van Jackson, Wallace. "Letter to Readers' Open Forum." Library Journal 61 (June 15, 1936): 467-468. Print. ; Van Jackson, Wallace. "Letter to Readers' Open Forum." Library Journal 61 (Aug. 1936): 563. Print. ; Preer, Jean L. “‘This Year -- Richmond!’: The 1936 Meeting of the American Library Association.” Libraries & Culture 39.2 (2004): 137-160. Print. ; American Library Association Committee on Racial Discrimination. "Report." A.L.A. Bulletin 31 (Jan. 1937): 38. Print. ; "Wallace Jackson." United States Census, 1940., n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2014. ; "Wallace Van Jackson." United States Census, 1910., n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2014. ; "Wallace Van Jackson." World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918., n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2014.

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