ALBERT JACKSONMr. Albert Jackson (1856-1918) was born in Miliford, Delaware to John and Anne Maria Jackson, a couple who worked on a large plantation. The youngest of nine children, Albert was barely three years old when his two eldest siblings were sold to another master in 1858.  Shortly after, John Jackson dies – presumably of a broken heart.

Left to fend for herself and her family alone, Anne Maria decides to escape the plantation and make the treacherous trip to freedom. A difficult journey at the best of times, Anne Maria along with her remaining seven children, faces the prospect of capture, separation, starvation and death. Despite the odds being firmly against her, Anne Maria collects her brood and heads North. Albert is still a toddler and his eldest sibling is about 16. Miraculously managing to avoid the slave catchers, Anne Maria reaches Pennsylvania with her family through the help of some agents of the Underground Railroad. The Jackson’s continued their journey Railroad by travelling the nearly 400 kilometre journey all the way to St. Catharines, Ontario and freedom.

Once in Canada, the Jackson’s stayed briefly at the home of Thornton and Lucie Blackburn, fugitive slaves from Kentucky who had come to Toronto in 1834. Thornton, who owned Toronto’s first taxi business, and his wife helped freedom seekers get settled in Toronto. The Jackson’s moved to the neighbourhood around Osgoode Hall, then called St. John’s Gate. This area of the city housed many refugees from slavery and other immigrants coming to Canada to start a new life. To support her family, Ann Maria worked as a laundress, while Albert’s oldest brothers worked as hotel waiters. Growing up in Toronto afforded Albert Jackson the privilege of public schooling – something neither his parents or most of siblings ever received. Albert’s education and hard work opened many doors to him, but he was drawn to working for the Postal Service.

Upon completion of his schooling in May 1882, Albert applied to and was accepted for the position of postman. His assignment was met with protest by his white co-workers who refused to train or work with him. Albert is demoted to hall porter in an attempt to defuse the tension. This move was met with an outcry by Toronto’s African-American community – led by Jackson’s brothers John Jr. and Robert, a barber to many prominent figures in Toronto. The debate raged for weeks until the African-American community eventually escalated the issue to the Prime Ministers office, and urged John A. McDonald to intervene on Jackson’s behalf. McDonald realized the significance of the issue to the African-American population and stepped in: Albert Jackson was returned to his original job as letter carrier. He remained in this position for the rest of his life, until his death in 1918.