Papers of civil rights pioneer who
was denied admission come home to U.Va. Library
By Charlotte Morford
1934, the University of Virginia had been accepting female students
to its graduate programs for nearly 15 years. Still recovering
from the backlash that came with this policy (and its affront
to views on the proper education of a Southern gentleman),
the Board of Visitors received an application from Alice Carlotta
Jackson, a 22-year-old Richmond native. Her application and the
decision it prompted changed the states history.
Jackson was the first African American to apply to a Virginia
graduate school. She received a letter from the U.Va. board that
rejected her on the basis of race as well as other good
and sufficient reasons. She wrote back, asking for details
so she could address those mysterious reasons, and her letter
touched off a passionate and public debate that led to the passage
of a law that paid black Virginians to attend graduate school
out of state. That historic correspondence, and 60 boxes of related
papers, photographs and other documents pertaining to her later
distinguished career as an educator, were recently given by her
family to the U.Va. Library.
is a certain poetic justice that the papers will have a
permanent home at U.Va., her son, Massachusetts Superior Court
Judge Julian T. Houston, said of the familys decision to
donate them to U.Va. It enables her to achieve in death
that which she sought but was denied in life.
who became Alice Jackson Stuart with a later marriage, went on
to study at Columbia University and became an influential college
teacher at historically black colleges
for some five decades. She died in 2001, at the age of 88.
her U.Va. application was rejected, her challenge was taken up
by the NAACP, and one of her lawyers was Thurgood Marshall, later
to become the first African American Supreme Court justice. To
resolve the case, the Virginia General Assembly established a
special tuition supplement for African-Americans to attend schools
outside of Virginia. While the law was eventually overturned by
the U.S. Supreme Court, its impact stayed with Stuart the rest
of her life.
experience was a defining moment in my mothers life,
Judge Houston said. It taught her the importance of standing
up for her beliefs, even when she knew that, merely because of
the color of her skin, she would not succeed. [She]
was a wonderful mother and teacher and a person of great courage,
and she deserves to have papers preserved under the best conditions
possible, he said.
earned an English degree from historically black Virginia Union
University in 1934. After a year of further study at Smith College
in Massachusetts, she returned to Richmond and became an instructor
at Virginia Union at the time of her U.Va. application.
collection will be of great value not only to scholars studying
Southern civil rights and education issues, but to all Virginians,
said University librarian Karin Wittenborg. The Jackson
family has deep roots in Virginia and a long history of contributions
to the state. We are thrilled and honored by the familys
decision to donate this important collection.
librarys Director of Special Collections, Michael Plunkett,
said that the papers will immediately enhance the research of
undergraduate and graduate students at the Universitys Carter
G. Woodson Institute for African-American Studies.
are already working on an extensive Web archive of Stuarts
career. Her papers add considerably to an already extensive archive
on civil rights and African-American history collections at U.Va.
1990 the Virginia General Assembly passed a resolution honoring
Alice Jackson Stuart for her courageous act in the 1930s.
view the Carter Woodson Institutes online project about
Alice Jackson Stuart, visit the Web site: http://www.virginia.edu/woodson/projects/kenan/jackson/jackson.html