Gift to Akron Art Museum, 1996
2015: "Proof" 4/30/15 - 10/25/15, Arnstein Galleries, Akron Art Museum
2000: "The Great Migration: The Evolution of African American Art 1790-1945" 6/16/00-10/22/00, Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, OH
1997-1998: "75th Anniversary Celebration of the Collection" 11/15/97-1/11/98, Akron Art Museum
1996-1997: "A History of Women Photographers" tour, organized by Akron Art Museum
10/19/96-1/4/97, The New York Public Library, New York, NY
2/13/97-5/4/97, The National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC
6/7/97-8/17/97, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA
9/6/97-11/2/97, Akron Art Museum
8 x 10 in., sheet
16 x 20 in., matt
Picketing in Los Angeles, 1948 (printed 1996)
Collection of the Akron Art Museum
Until she took a photography class at a Los Angeles recreation center in the early 1930s, Vera Jackson found life somewhat boring. She had been brought to California with her siblings shortly after the death of her mother in the influenza epidemic of 1918. In her photography class, she became so taken with the basic skills of the medium—the darkroom work as well as the picture taking—that she vowed "to go into photography in a big way."1 Using a neighbor's child as a model, she produced a prize-winning picture that was used on the cover of an educational magazine published by the Los Angeles school system.
Jackson's professional career began shortly thereafter when she was employed by the California Eagle, an important West Coast newspaper owned and edited by black activist Carlotta Bass. An early warrior in the struggle for equal rights, Bass became the first African American woman to run for vice-president of the United States (on the Progressive Party ticket in 1952). Jackson covered picket lines, rallies, and strikes. Picketing in Los Angeles was taken at 35th and Central Avenue during one of the many demonstrations organized in the 1940s against Jim Crow Laws (restricted housing covenants for African Americans). The young boy in the lower right-hand corner of the picture is the artist's son, who accompanied her on this assignment. With its high contrasts and crisp patterning, this image suggests the energy and excitement felt by those engaged in civil rights activities in those days.
As the only full-time photographer on the staff, Jackson was afforded the opportunity—unusual for a black woman at that time—to photograph a wide range of events and personages besides those related to civil agitation. She depicted sporting meets, church and community affairs, and also photographed many of the African American celebrities who came to Los Angeles, among them Duke Ellington, Dorothy Dandridge, Paul Robeson, and Jackie Robinson.
Jackson's experiences on the California Eagle prompted her to return to school to earn a master's degree in education and to keep improving her camera skills. Although her next career was as an elementary school teacher, she continued to photograph for a number of West Coast publications. "Photography," she has written, "enriched my life in many ways. It taught me to see, and to understand myself and others . . . and to enjoy the wonders of the beauty on this planet."2
- Naomi Rosenblum, 2001
1. Vera Jackson in a letter to Naomi Rosenblum, March 10, 1993.
Moutoussamy-Ashe, Jeanne. Viewfinders: Black Women Photographers. New York and London: Writers & Readers Publishing, 1993, 85–89, 180.