Jennie Jackson was a Fisk Jubilee Singer, impresario, and folklorist. She was also the granddaughter of President Andrew Jackson’s lifelong body servant. Jackson’s mother was born a slave; her father, George, was also enslaved but died before her birth. Her mother was the beneficiary of a slaveholder’s deathbed manumission, and because of this, Jackson was born free. When the trustee appointed by her mother’s late mistress tried to destroy the family’s “free papers” so he could re-enslave them, Jackson’s destitute mother fled into the city with three-year-old Jennie.
Jackson learned many spirituals working at her mother’s washboard. She worked with her mother for years, washing and scrubbing clothes of local whites and Northern officers. Her mother was highly protective over Jackson and her voice. She would often tell her “Save your voice,” and “You may have a chance to do some good with it some day.”
Jackson was among the first students admitted to the Fisk Free Colored School. She joined the Fisk Jubilee Singers in 1872, and was noted as having one of the best voices in the troupe, as she captivated audiences with her renditions of “I’ll Hear the Trumpet Sound” and “Home, Sweet Home.”
In Europe, she was a huge sensation. She was so popular until people would follow her around and into stores, causing Jackson to have to sneak out the back of the store. However, her beauty just as captivating. Some of her fellow Jubilee Singers later claimed that it was the novelty of Jackson’s almost jet-black complexion that made her particularly popular with audiences European audiences.
Eventually, the singing and touring gradually took a toll on Jackson, and she returned to Nashville after touring with the troupe for five years. She later married Rev. A.J Dehart and toured with her own troupe, the Jennie Jackson DeHart Jubilee Club. Jennie Jackson died on May 4, 1910.
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