Leonora T. Jackson–Early Asheville School Teacher Was Born a Slave

Lenora T. Jackson 1859-1950

Leonora Tecumseh Jackson died in Asheville in 1950 at the age of 91. Her brief obituary mentioned the schools where she had taught and simply stated that she was “a teacher of 62 years.”

Leonora was born in 1859 in Halifax County to Caroline Garrett and Andrew Jackson. She had two siblings, Casca, a teacher and Andrew Thomas a lawyer and graduate of Howard University. Prior to emancipation, Andrew Jackson was owned by Mr. George Washington Barnes who apprenticed Andrew to a blacksmith. Leonora would have been 4 years old in 1863.

Leonora graduated in 1881 from Shaw University, a Freedmen School in Raleigh, N.C. and was teaching there from 1878 through 1882. She also studied at the University of Chicago and Hampton Institute, a Freedmen school in Virginia, founded in 1868 by black and white leaders of the American Missionary Association.

In 1883 she began teaching at Garfield Graded School in Raleigh. In 1887 the Raleigh Signal newspaper wrote, “We hear with pleasure of the appointment of Miss Leonora T. Jackson, of Halifax, to the principalship of the Normal School.” Her work for the last five years at Garfield Graded School “has made a very enviable reputation there as a teacher. It is said by those in the city of Raleigh, that she is the finest teacher of primary classes in the State.”

With the establishment of the Asheville City School system in 1888, Leonora came to Asheville in 1891 and began teaching the first grade at Mountain Street School, which opened in August 1890 taking the place of Beaumont Academy. Edward S. Stephens was principal.

With the opening of the Catholic Hill School in 1892 (the precursor to Stephens-Lee), Leonora began teaching first grade there through 1907. In 1901-02 she served as principal of Hill Street School. She is also listed as principal at Hill Street in the 1907 Asheville City Directory.

Catholic Hill School 1892-1917 when it was razed by fire. It sat at the same site as the later Stephens-Lee High School. Photo from the Asheville City Schools Foundation Collection MS388.

After being listed in the Asheville City Directories for the next several years as teaching in a private school, one document says that she also taught in Missouri which is where she may have been during the 1930s. [Hill Street School was listed as a private school in the 1907 directory, so that may have been where she was at after 1902.]

The 1940 census lists Leonora as the Directress of Boys at Cross Creek, Cumberland, N.C. This reference refers to Fayetteville State Teachers College. Her yearly salary was $1,030. In the same year, she gave a speech at the 75th anniversary for Shaw University along with Governor-elect J. Melville Broughton and others. She is also listed as a teacher. In 1941 she was elected vice president of the Shaw University Alumni  Association.

The Fayetteville State Teachers College Yearbook for 1946 included the photograph used here above and this notice; “Miss Leonora T. Jackson, known to all graduates and students of Fayetteville State Teachers College as “Mother Jackson, “is now Honorably retired after having served the State for more than sixty years.”

Leonora returned to her home at  45 Grail  Street in Asheville in 1947.

The house on the left is believed to be Leonora’s home at 45 Grail Street.


When she died in 1950, her services were held at the Nazareth Baptist Church and she was buried in Violet Hill Cemetery.

After Leonora Jackson graduated from Shaw University, it seems apparent that she could have taught anywhere she wanted to. Why did she come t o Asheville? Leonora is listed in the American Baptist Home Mission Society 50th Annual Report for 1882, where it gives the name of the missionary, the state they’re working in, their profession, and in what institution. She is listed as a missionary teaching at Shaw University. For this reason, it seems probable that Leonora came to the rugged mountains of western North Carolina to teach as a missionary in a new public school system.

Click here to read about the life of Leonore’s father Andrew Jackson, as a slave,

a preacher, and a man who worked for the education of Freedmen, page 294.


Post by Zoe Rhine Librarian North Carolina Room

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