A First Family
Mary Hinkson Jackson is a proud member of an African American family of firsts. Her daughter, Jennifer, gave her the Storycorps experience as a birthday gift. At this milestone in her life, Mary thought it was appropriate to honor the contributions of members of her family who rose above systemic limitations.
Mary’s sister, Cordelia Hinkson and her cousin, Georgine Willis, were the among the first African American women to attend Cornell University.
Dr. DeHaven Hinkson
Mary’s father, Dr. DeHaven Hinkson, was the first African American to direct a U.S. Army hospital during World War II. He was charged with building the Army hospital at Tuskeegee Institute.
Mary: Lady in White
Mary was one of the first African American dancers to join the Martha Graham Dance company. A few of the many dances performed by her include Dark Meadow, Canticle for Innocent Comedians based on the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi, In Praise of Earth, Seraphic Dialogue about Joan of Arc, Diversion of Angels, Cave of the Heart, based on the life of Madea, Deaths and Entrances, based on the life of the Bronte sisters, and Lady in White.
Mary was also the first African American, along with Arthur Mitchell, to dance with the New York City Ballet. They performed George Balanchine’s Figures in the Carpet, which was Balanchine’s response to George Wallace’s aggressive stand against desegregation at the University of Alabama in 1963.
Mary’s husband, Julian Jackson, owned and operated the D&G Bakery in Little Italy. There were no other African American proprietors on Mulberry Street when he purchased the bakery. Across the street was a Gambino family establishment, and at the other end of the block was a Genovese establishment. In the beginning of Julian’s venture, both of his trucks were torched. He responded by paying a visit to the Genoveses. Mary says that after that visit they had no more problems running their business in Little Italy. In fact, for 18 years after Julian’s death, three African American women – Mary, her daughter, Jennifer and her niece, Beverly – managed the D&G Bakery at 240 Mulberry Street.
Amazing! And this is just a snapshot of this family between the middle and end of the 20th Century!
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