In Memoriam

Esther Merle Jackson (1923-2006)

Esther Merle Jackson, a longtime professor of drama at the University of Wisconsin, died recently in Brooklyn, New York, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. She was 83 years old.

Professor Jackson was born and raised in Arkansas. She attended racially segregated schools where both of her parents were teachers. Jackson graduated from high school at age 16 and enrolled at Hampton Institute in Virginia. She graduated at age 19 and got a job teaching speech and drama at what is now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, a historically black educational institution. She later earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in drama from Ohio State University. After teaching at several black colleges and universities, in 1969 she was hired as a full professor with tenure at the University of Wisconsin. She later authored the book The Broken World of Tennessee Williams.

Victoria Jackson Gray Adams (1926-2006)

Victoria J.G. Adams, civil rights activist, political pioneer, entrepreneur, and longtime campus minister at Virginia State University in Petersburg, died from lung cancer at her son’s home in Baltimore. She was 79 years old.

Adams was born in Palmers Crossing, Mississippi. She attended Wilberforce University in Ohio before dropping out because of financial difficulties. After marrying she began a career selling cosmetics. In 1962 she became a field organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee teaching literacy and voter education to sharecroppers. In 1964 she challenged Mississippi’s segregationist U.S. Senator John Stennis in the Democratic primary. With blacks largely denied the vote in Mississippi, Adams ran to make a statement about voting rights. Later that year, she helped form the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party which unsuccessfully challenged the credentials of the all-white Mississippi delegation to the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City.

Adams was elected to the national board of directors of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. After King’s assassination, Adams moved to Virginia. A lay leader of the Methodist Church, Adams served for 30 years as campus minister at the historically black Virginia State University.