His Parents Were Slaves, He Became a Leader: Herbert L. Jackson

By Sky Malerba

Herbert L. Jackson

Malden Arts launched “Malden Arts Mondays” earlier this month with a celebration of esteemed Malden natives. First up was illustrator, Ed Emberley, who was born in Malden in 1931. This week Malden Arts celebrates the first African-American state representative in Massachusetts, Herbert L. Jackson, with a suggested walking tour and other activities.

A child of parents born into slavery, Jackson was the first African American ever elected to the Malden City Council. He was first elected as a councillor for Ward 7 from 1945 to 1947, and in Ward 5 from 1947 to 1951 and as a City Councillor-at-Large from 1965 to 1975. He served as president of the Malden City Council four times. He was elected as a state house representative, serving from 1950 to 1954.

Herbert L Jackson was born in 1908 to John T. Jackson and Araminta Jefferson Jackson, who owned a tailoring business. Jackson was one of seven children and it seems as though his political career started in grade school. Always breaking barriers, he ran as class president of his graduating class of 1927— the first African-American to do so at Malden High.

Although his early years as a young entertainer in jazz clubs and Boston Federal Theater would suggest an ambition towards show business, he became a man of the community, dedicating 30 years to the town he called his home.

Jackson passed away on Sept. 6 in 1978. Though descended from a sad history, he died a proud politician, community man, icon of Malden pride and brought esteem to his family.

Once home of Herbert L. Jackson in Malden with painted switchbox to commemorate him

The goal of Malden Arts Mondays is to provide Malden residents (particularly families, young children and tweens/teens) with fun activities that help them get to know Malden’s cultural history and contributions, and bring out the creative in all of us. All activities can be done with safe, social distancing during this time of the coronavirus pandemic. For more information about the program, click here.

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