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Jackson, Fay (1902-1988)

Image Ownership: Public Domain
As a generation of young African Americans broke new artistic and political ground in the Harlem Renaissance during the 1920s, three thousand miles away in Los Angeles, Fay Jackson helped to fuel a similar, if less well known movement. Jackson and her friends, including future newspaper publisher Leon Washington and Superior Court Judge Loren Miller, boldly fused art and politics in the service of social change.   

Jackson’s intellectual and political activism surfaced early. Born in Dallas, Texas in 1902, she moved to Los Angeles as a teenager. After graduating from Los Angeles High School, she became one of a small number of African Americans and a handful of women enrolled at the University of Southern California. During her college years she became active in the junior branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She also married John Robinson, a medical student at the University of California, Berkeley.  

By her early twenties, Jackson was well known in local and national black intellectual circles. In 1925 she served as vice president of the junior NAACP when that group mounted a successful and well publicized boycott of W.E.B. DuBois’s play Star of Ethiopia after older NAACP members limited the role of the juniors in the Los Angeles production.

Fay Jackson chose journalism as the primary outlet for her creative activism. Beginning in 1928, she published the short-lived news and literary magazine Flash which followed Wallace Thurman’s short-lived Outlet magazine.  Jackson also covered politics and race issues as political editor for Charlotta Bass’s California Eagle.  When Leon Washington and Loren Miller started a competing paper, The Los Angeles Sentinel in 1933, she joined her friends to make the young paper a popular alternative to the Eagle.

Jackson also wrote for the Chicago Defender and the Association of Negro Publishers (ANP), who hired her as a Hollywood correspondent, focusing on African American movie stars such as Clarence Muse and Bill Robinson. She also wrote about non-African American figures in Hollywood such as the actress Mae West. In 1937 the ANP sent Jackson as its representative to London to cover the coronation of King George VI. While in Europe, she interviewed Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, singer Josephine Baker, and writer H.G. Wells.

Jackson took a job with the U.S. Department of Defense after World War II.  By the 1950s Jackson earned a realtor’s license.  Her work in real estate prompted Jackson to become an advocate for African American housing issues.   Fay Jackson died in Los Angeles in 1988.

Sources:
Charlotta Bass, Forty Years: Memoirs from the Pages of a Newspaper (Los Angeles: Charlotta Bass, 1960); Kathleen Cairns, Front-Page Women Journalists, 1920-1950 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003); Douglas  Flamming, Bound for Freedom: Black Los Angeles in Jim Crow America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005).          

Contributor:

California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo

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