Of Civil Rights Pioneer Who Was Denied Admission Come Home To University
Of Virginia Library
September 24, 2003 --
By 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 state’s 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 detail 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 family’s 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
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
Supreme Court justice. To resolve the case, the Virginia General Assembly
established a special tuition supplement for African Americans to attend
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 mother’s 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 her 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
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.
are thrilled and honored
by the family’s decision to donate this important collection.”
Library’s Director of Special Collections, Michael Plunkett,
said that the papers will immediately enhance the research of
undergraduate and graduate
students at the University’s Carter G. Woodson Institute
for Afro-American and African Studies. Students are already working
on an extensive Web archive
of Stuart's career. Jackson’s 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.
Charlotte Morford, (434) 924-4254