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Jackson, Lillie Mae Carroll

Jackson, Lillie Mae Carroll

May 25, 1889
July 6, 1975

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, civil rights leader Lillie Mae Carroll was the daughter of former slave Charles Carroll, who was an eponymous descendant of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. In 1903 the Carrolls bought a house in the prosperous Druid Hill section of Baltimore, where much of that city's black middle class resided. Lillie Mae Carroll graduated from the Colored High and Training School in 1908 and began teaching. She married Kieffer Jackson, a traveling salesman, in 1910, and the two spent the next eight years on the road throughout the South. They returned to Baltimore in 1918 to raise their four children.

Jackson's involvement in civil rights activism began in 1931, when her daughter Juanita returned from college in Pennsylvania and organized the Baltimore Young People's Forum. Lillie Jackson formed an adults' advisory board for the group. They sponsored a successful "Buy Where You Can Work" campaign against businesses that refused to employ African Americans. Shortly thereafter, following a series of lynchings in the area, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) named Jackson to revive the floundering Baltimore branch. She then began a thirty-five-year career with the NAACP that resulted in many landmark civil rights victories. One of the Baltimore branch's first actions was a lawsuit to desegregate the University of Maryland law school, which was argued by Thurgood Marshall in his first case. Under Jackson, the NAACP also brought lawsuits throughout the 1940s and 1950s that resulted in the desegregation of public schools, parks, beaches, and swimming pools.

Under "Fearless Lil," Baltimore NAACP membership saw enormous growth in the 1940s, rising to eighteen thousand in 1946. Jackson organized and was elected president of the Maryland NAACP state conference in 1942. She helped organize demonstrations against police brutality in Annapolis that year. In response, the governor appointed her to the newly formed Interracial Commission, but she resigned shortly afterward, explaining that the commission was an ineffectual body that censored her opinions. She organized and participated in the Maryland Congress Against Discrimination in Baltimore in 1946. An extensive voter registration drive throughout the 1940s doubled the number of black voters and made registration more accessible. In 1956 Jackson received an honorary doctorate from Morgan State College (now Morgan State University) in Baltimore. During the 1950s she also worked to make Baltimore the first city to comply with the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision. When the civil rights movement accelerated in the late 1950s, Jackson often contributed her own money to bail out arrested activists when the NAACP's funds were depleted.

Jackson was a devout Christian and a lifelong member of Baltimore's Stark Street United Methodist Church, as well as the first woman to serve on its board of trustees. She believed that the NAACP was "God's workshop" and was instrumental in uniting different congregations and denominations for civil rights activism. After she retired from the NAACP in 1970 at age eighty, she formed Freedom House, a network of inner-city community activists. She died in Baltimore in 1975.

See also National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)


"Dr. Lillie M. Jackson: Lifelong Freedom Fighter." Crisis 82 (1975): 279300.

Greene, Susan Ellery. Baltimore: An Illustrated History. Woodland Hills, Calif.: Windsor Publications, 1980.

allison x. miller (1996)

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