Special Collections of the ODU Libraries

Alexander Brooks Jackson Papers, circa 1965-1981 | Special Collections and University Archives

By Mel Frizzell

Collection Overview

Title: Alexander Brooks Jackson Papers, circa 1965-1981

ID: 17/RG 17-2B5

Primary Creator: Jackson, Alexander Brooks (1925-1981)

Extent: 4.2 Linear Feet. More info below.


The collection is broken up into the following series: I. Artwork, II. Photographs, III. Miscellaneous

Series I: Artwork: This series contains photographs of artwork done by Jackson. It contains photographs of individual pieces, as well as photos of Jackson’s work in a gallery setting. This series is organized alphabetically.

Series II: Photographs: This series contains photographs that were taken by or collected by Jackson of subjects such as places, people, and animals. This series is organized alphabetically.

Series III: Miscellaneous: This series contains receipts, notes, and writings by or given to Jackson. This series is organized alphabetically.

Date Acquired: 01/28/2011

Subjects: Artists--United States, Jackson, A. B. (Alexander Brooks), 1925-1981, Old Dominion University--Dept. of Art, Old Dominion University--Faculty, Photographers--United States

Languages: English


Alexander Brooks “A.B.” Jackson began teaching in the Art department in 1967 as the school's first black faculty member. The contents of this collection include photographs taken and collected by Jackson of miscellaneous subjects, as well as photographs of his artwork and excerpts from his poetry.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The contents of this collection include photographs taken and collected by Jackson of miscellaneous subjects, as well as photographs of his artwork and excerpts from his poetry. The collection’s contents are undated.

Collection Historical Note

Alexander Brooks “A.B.” Jackson was born in New Haven, Connecticut on April 18, 1925 to an Irish mother and an African American father. Jackson spent most of his childhood inside due to asthma, but showed an interest in art at an early age. During his senior year of high-school, Jackson made a pen and ink drawing of William Lyons Phelps, a revered professor at Yale University, and an acquaintance of Jackson’s father. After seeing the drawing, Phelps scheduled a meeting between Jackson and the dean of Yale’s art school. Soon after his interview and portfolio review, Jackson was admitted in September, 1946. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting in 1953, and a Master of Fine Arts in graphic design in 1955.

Jackson worked for three years at the Watson-Manning Advertising Agency in Stratford, Connecticut as a designer before he began to focus on teaching. He worked briefly as an instructor at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 1955, before moving to Norfolk, Virginia in 1956 to teach art at Norfolk State University. Jackson taught there for 10 years, and was chairman for one. In 1967, he joined Old Dominion College (later Old Dominion University) as a full-time professor in the art department and the school’s first black faculty member. While at Old Dominion, Jackson participated as a judge in numerous art shows while having several showcases of his own. He was also active in programs for underprivileged youth, including a three year federal Pell grant program to instruct and inspire high-school students of all backgrounds and ethnicities to pursue higher education in 1969.

As an artist, Jackson’s work focused primarily on painting and photography, though he also worked with both screen printing processes and sculpture. His work earned him various awards and showcases, in spite of the obstacles that racism presented for him. While Jackson was not a civil rights activist, he believed that art transcended race and was affiliated with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.  Jackson was also active in the Norfolk art community and was a member of the Norfolk Fine Arts Committee. He did art criticism feature writing for the Ledger-Star, the Virginian Pilot’s sister afternoon edition, as well as Sight and Sound magazine in Norfolk. His work is represented in the permanent collections of Yale University, Dartmouth College, Mint Museum of Fine Arts, and various other corporate and private collections.

In 1978, Jackson published his book, “As I See Ghent: A Visual Essay”, depicting the Ghent district of Norfolk, Virginia, where Jackson resided. The book is composed primarily of photographs and drawings done by Jackson and focuses on the details of Ghent that Jackson found inspiring. The book is reminiscent of Jackson’s series of paintings, entitled “The Porch People”, in which the subjects are anonymous sitters on their porches in Ghent. Jackson died March 23, 1981, at the age of 55. Following Jackson’s death, the Chrysler Museum held a three-site retrospective exhibition of his work. A local television station created a tribute, entitled “Wow, Look at That,” one of his trademark catch phrases, to commemorate him.

Subject/Index Terms

Artists--United States
Jackson, A. B. (Alexander Brooks), 1925-1981
Old Dominion University--Dept. of Art
Old Dominion University--Faculty
Photographers--United States

Administrative Information

Repository: Special Collections and University Archives

Alternate Extent Statement: 1 Hollinger Document Case, 2 Half-Size Hollinger Document Cases, 2 Oversized Boxes

Access Restrictions: Open to researchers without restrictions.

Use Restrictions: Before publishing quotations or excerpts from any materials, permission must be obtained from Special Collections and University Archives, and the holder of the copyright, if not Old Dominion University Libraries.

Acquisition Source: Ms. Ann Dearsley-Vernon

Acquisition Method: Gift. Accession # A2011-01

Related Materials:

A.B. Jackson retrospective exhibition : the Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, Virginia, October 16-December 6, 1981.

Call #: N 6537.J28 A4 1981

As I see Ghent : a visual essay

Call #: N 6537.J28 A43

Sowing the Seeds of Research University: A.B. Jackson

Preferred Citation: [Identification of item], Box [insert number], Folder [insert number and title], Alexander Brooks Jackson Papers, Special Collections and University Archives, Patricia W. and J. Douglas Perry Library, Old Dominion University Libraries, Norfolk, VA 23529.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

[Series I: Artwork],
[Series II: Photographs],
[Series III: Miscellaneous],

Series I: Artwork
Box 1
Folder 1: Art
Folder 2: Art: Untitled
Folder 3: Negatives: Artwork
Box 2
Item 1: “Veronica’s Veil”
Series II: Photographs
Box 2
Item 2: Art students outside of a house
Box 3
Item 1: Children painting outside
Item 2: Close-up of a man’s face
Item 3: Close-up of a man’s hand, playing pool
Item 4: Close-up of Jackson’s face
Item 5: Close-up of a woman’s profile
Item 6: Close-up of two men’s faces
Item 7: Close-up of two men’s faces
Item 8: Detail of balconies on a building
Item 9: Detail of a shadow on the side of house
Item 10: Headshot of a woman
Item 11: Man at desk with rubber cement
Item 12: Man lying on bench
Item 13: Man on porch, Martin Rogers, Raleigh
Item 14: Student posing for figure drawing
Item 15: Three men smoking
Item 16: Woman at desk, doing crafts
Item 17: Woman looking off-camera
Item 18: Woman looking out of a window, Church Street
Item 19: Woman smoking
Box 4
Folder 1: Negatives: Animals and Farm Life
Folder 2: Negatives: People and Places
Folder 3: Animals
Folder 4: Animals
Folder 5: Farm Life and People
Folder 6: People
Folder 7: People
Folder 8: People
Folder 9: People
Folder 10: People
Folder 11: People and Places
Folder 12: People and Places
Folder 13: People and Places
Folder 14: People and Places
Folder 15: People and Places
Box 5
Folder 1: Peoples and Places
Folder 2: Peoples and Places
Folder 3: Peoples and Places
Folder 4: Peoples and Places
Folder 5: Peoples and Places
Folder 6: Peoples and Places
Series III: Miscellaneous
Box 5
Folder 7: Notes and Receipts
Folder 8: Poetry

Browse by Series:

[Series I: Artwork],
[Series II: Photographs],
[Series III: Miscellaneous],

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