CELEBRATING LOCAL BLACK HISTORY

In honor of Black History Month the Historical Society will be presenting a series of essays written by Roger Glass.

Roger S. Glass is the great grandson of the late Clarence Jackson and the late Addie Jackson, both longtime Tarrytown residents; the grandson of the late Virginia Jackson Nelson and the late Henry Nelson, both lifelong Tarrytown residents; and the son of Alba Nelson Glass, who was born and raised in Tarrytown. Roger was born in Tarrytown in 1952 and currently resides in Washington, DC. You can visit his family history blog at www.roger-glass.com.

ESSAY NUMBER 2

Growing Cotton in a Tarrytown Backyard

Exposed to cotton as a child growing up in Virginia in the 1870s, Clarence Jackson Sr. was certain he could grow “King Cotton” in the north. So when friends and family told the longtime Tarrytown resident that he couldn’t grow cotton in his Mechanics Avenue backyard, he set out to prove them wrong.  And he did.

Clarence Jackson Sr. arrived in Tarrytown in the mid-1880s. In 1892, at the age of 27, he landed a job at Grand Central Station as a messenger with New York Central Railroad. He would eventually rise to the position of chauffeur and personal assistant for several of the railroad’s presidents, including Alfred H. Smith, who presided over New York Central Railroad during its heyday (1914 -1924).

Screen Shot 2018-02-12 at 2.14.09 PMWhen Jackson retired in 1935 an article published in the Tarrytown Daily News the day before he retired stated: “Mr. Jackson met many dignitaries from all parts of the world” during his 42 years as an employee of New York Central Railroad.

“As a gardener he [Jackson] was a success, about a dozen plants grew up quite as well as they would down in the Carolinas or any other cotton growing states,” a December 1941 article in the Tarrytown Daily News said.

 

December 5, 1941, The Daily News, Tarrytown, NY

December 5, 1941, The Daily News, Tarrytown, NY

“Mr. Jackson was happy over his success for it meant much satisfaction to him being able to refute the doubting folks who at the start of the season shook their heads and said, ‘Jackson can’t grow cotton up here’.” The caption that ran with a photo of Jackson and his cotton reported: “Cotton rarely thrives this far north and for the plant to bloom at this time of year is almost unheard of.”

Some years later another Tarrytown Daily News article also mentioned Jackson’s cotton growing skills. “Mr. Jackson only tried growing cotton as a fad, but as he kept cultivating it, the cotton kept growing and blossomed into as fine a plantation as one would find in the heart of the Carolinas or Tennessee.”

ESSAY NUMBER 1

Town’s “Colored Community” rises up to protest showing of “The Birth of a Nation”

Screen Shot 2018-02-05 at 12.37.51 PMby Roger S. Glass

When the movie “The Birth of a Nation” was released in 1915 it was immediately met with controversy and protests. Set in the South during and after the Civil War, the movie depicted black men as lawless and dangerous—and portrayed the Ku Klux Klan as a heroic force.

Black Americans and others were outraged by this biased view of reality. That outrage found its way to Tarrytown in 1918 when plans were announced to show “The Birth of a Nation” at Music Hall.

Tarrytown’s Colored Protective League organized a meeting at Shiloh Baptist Church to protest the plan to show the movie. “This immoral play written by Rev. Thomas Dixon causes race hatred, and in many places in the South where the picture has been shown lynchings and race troubles have resulted afterwards which were directly traceable to the evil effects of this picture,” an article in Tarrytown Daily News announcing the meeting said.

In the aftermath of the meeting at Shiloh, “a large delegation of colored men and women” attended a meeting of the Tarrytown Board of Trustees to protest the showing of the movie, the newspaper reports.

According to the Tarrytown Daily News, Colored Protective League spokesperson William Kingsland told the town’s trustees that the movie “breeds antagonism against the colored race and wherever it has been shown there has been trouble.”

Screen Shot 2018-02-05 at 12.39.09 PMAnother spokesperson, Daniel Teagle, said the delegation of colored men and women were present “to register sincere and unreserved protest against the presentation of scenes (in the movie) which have no laudable purpose.” He went on to say that the picture “was not elevating, but that it sought to destroy the moral fabric which the Negroes by their forbearance and patience and acquiescence to self-government had built up.”

Screen Shot 2018-02-05 at 12.39.33 PMBeatrice Jackson-Conway, who held the distinction of being the first black girl to graduate from Washington Irving High School, spoke “in defence of the Negro,” the paper says. She warned town leaders that showing the movie “would start trouble” and that “she did not see how cutting out two scenes from the picture was going to help any.”

The meeting ended with Board of Trustee President Frank Pierson promising to bring the colored community’s concerns about the movie to the attention of Music Hall owner Robert Goldblatt.

Roger S. Glass is the great grandson of the late Clarence Jackson and the late Addie Jackson, both longtime Tarrytown residents; the grandson of the late Virginia Jackson Nelson and the late Henry Nelson, both lifelong Tarrytown residents; and the son of Alba Nelson Glass, who was born and raised in Tarrytown. Roger was born in Tarrytown in 1952 and currently resides in Washington, DC. You can visit his family history blog at www.roger-glass.com.

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