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Letters to the Editor

Jackson story opened reader’s eyes to past acts of discrimination

To the editor:

Ty Rushing wrote a great article about JoAnne Jackson and her family recently. I was saddened to realize the abusive treatment her dad experienced in the early ’30s and discrimination I was not even aware of later.

JoAnne Jackson was just a year behind me at Newton Senior High School, where we were both very active in music. She and her family were well liked by everyone I knew, but I’m sure that wasn’t always true.

In the fall of ‘53, the mixed quartet of which I was a part and one in which JoAnne sang were both selected for the All-State Music Festival in Des Moines. It involved an overnight stay at a hotel, and it was assumed the girls in each quartet would room together.

The parents of the other girl in JoAnne’s quartet would not allow them to room together. Almost immediately, a junior girl in the orchestra said she’d like to room with JoAnne. I don’t know if JoAnne ever knew there were at least two others who said the same. I hope she did.

JoAnne told of another time when, as a member of the orchestra, she was in Marshalltown for a festival. She went with other girls to a restaurant. They waited and waited as other tables were served many times.

The girls complained among themselves until JoAnne said, “It’s because of me.” Without another word, the whole group stood up and walked out. JoAnne said she felt so proud that her friends would be so loyal to her.

JoAnne’s dad must have been a remarkable man. He was kind, in spite of all he endured those early years. When she first moved back to Newton, JoAnne spoke at the Jasper County Historical Museum about growing up black in Newton in the ’50s.

In parts of the U.S., demonstrations on behalf of blacks were regularly in the news. JoAnne decided she should “do my part.” She made a sign saying “We Shall Overcome” and marched in front of the post office.

When her dad heard what she was doing, he drove to the post office and called, “JoAnne, get in the car.” He drove her home, broke up her sign and put it in the trash, saying, “JoAnne, we have overcome.”

Harvey Jackson had overcome — more than we will ever know.

Shirley Osborne


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