Over the past two or three weeks, the nation has mourned the passing of notable civil rights icons. Monday, Helen Burns Jackson, the mother of the Rev. Jesse Jackson joined the ancestors. She was 92 and lived in Greenville, S.C., her hometown.
“She was an incredible woman blessed with a long life,” Jackson told the Associated Press. “She lived under very trying circumstances, but she was so determined to make a contribution.”
Along with her long legacy in the Civil Rights Movement, Jackson possessed a beautiful voice and was very smart academically, said Xanthene Norris, a Greenville County Councilwoman who has known the family for decades. “She was a talented young lady,” Norris told the Greenville News.
Born in 1923, Jackson had two scholarships to attend college, her son said, but when she became pregnant with him in 1941, she chose not to go. She later became a cosmetologist. “She helped a lot of people,” her son told the press. “That’s mostly what I remember about Mother, is some people would call and say, ‘I need my hair to be dressed, but I don’t have any money.’ She would say, ‘Come on anyhow.’”
Her generosity of spirit was expressed in her church as well, where her voice was often heard in the choir. Visitors to her home relished her meals and looked forward to her worldly reflections. They also brought their paperwork and documents that she would assist them in completing.
The Rev. Jackson has often recounted that his father was his mother’s neighbor, Noah Louis Robinson, but she later married Charles Henry Jackson, who adopted him.
“The passing of Helen Burns Jackson is a loss to all of us who grew up under the mentorship of her son,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton. “She was undoubtedly a deeply spiritual and compassionate woman and a freedom fighter in her own right.”
Sharpton said he had known Jackson since he was teenager. “She was the matriarch of the movement in the 70s and the 80s and up until now,” he said. “I visited her with Rev. Jackson last Monday in the hospital and saw her weakening condition, but that does not lessen the sense of loss upon hearing of her transition. May she rest in peace.”
Funeral and memorial services are still pending.