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The story of Hiram Jackman, for whom Jackman High Named
Columbia Adair County-Chamber Insights Black History Month Recognition:Hiram Jackman, born a slave in 1845 near Creelsboro
Photo of remaining Rosenwald School with this article
February is designated Black History Month. African Americans who made a significant difference in the lives of others are brought to our attention. One such man is Hiram Jackman who was born a slave in 1845 near Creelsboro. His owner, recognizing the little boy as being brilliant, defied the law forbidding anyone to teach a slave to read and write; he taught Hiram.
Jackman fought in the Civil War
Jackman enlisted in the US army during the Civil War. Being able to read and write was a great asset to him and to his fellow soldiers, most of whom were illiterate and powerless because they had no opportunity for an education. This instilled in Jackman the need and value of education.
After the war, Jackman began teaching in Adair, Russell Counties
After the war, Jackman, largely through his own efforts, began teaching African American adults in Adair and Russell counties to qualify them to teach children. There were a few small schools for "blacks" in Adair County; many Kentucky counties had none. Jackman taught students for 45 years; 28 of them in Adair County. He became an ordained Baptist minister and performed the first marriage ceremony in Adair County of former slaves following an act by the Kentucky Legislature in 1866 that allowed newly freed men and women to legalize their commitments.
Booker T. Washington was allowed him to read
Meanwhile, Booker T. Washington, born into slavery in Virginia in 1856, had benevolent owners who allowed him to learn to read. At age nine he began work in salt or coal mines but read whenever he could.
Hampton Institute founded in Virginia
During the Civil War, African American troops were under the command of white leaders. Samuel Armstrong, later a general, was leader of the 9th Regiment US Colored Troops. Armstrong, an abolitionist son of missionaries, became concerned about his troops, who had no job skills or education to earn a living. He established Hampton Institute, with the help of the American Missionary Association, in Virginia. It was a place where black students could learn while paying for their education by manual labor. Young Booker walked almost 500 miles to attend. He worked as a janitor and in 1876 graduated with honors. Armstrong recognized Booker's talents and suggested him as leader of a recently begun school for African American students in Tuskegee, Alabama. Booker followed thesame type education pattern as the one at Hampton. He sought and received donations from very wealthy white people and Tuskegee Institute grew rapidly.
Julius Rosenwald of Sears backed Booker Washington's work
One of his donors was Julius Rosenwald, CEO of Sears, Roebuck & Company. Rosenwald, who was Jewish, had grown up poor but made Sears and himself a financial success. He appreciated Booker's work and wanted to use his money to help stop the horrors of racial prejudice. The two of them established an innovative matching grant program to build well designed schools for African American students throughout 15 southern states where the children were not allowed to attend public schools. It resulted in 5357 schools built with Rosenwalds seed money and community support.
Jackman High School was a Rosenwald School
The program envisioned by Booker T. Washington and Julius Rosenwald reached Adair County where five Rosenwald schools were built. The one built on Taylor Street in Columbia in 1925 was named Jackman. At first accommodating eight grades, it was accredited in 1934 as a four year high school serving four counties. The school burned in 1954. By then African American children were allowed to attend public school because integration had become law.
Professor Jackman never saw the Columbia School named for him
Prof. Jackman and Booker T. Washington both died in 1915, many years before integration of schools, restaurants, hotels and theaters. Jackman never got to see the school that was named for him by people in whose lives he'd made a difference. A flag pole still marks the Taylor Street site.
Article first appeared in the February 2006 Columbia-Adair County Chamber Insights
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